By the time the 70’s rolled around, westerns became passé. With such hits like Bullitt, The French Connection and Dirty Harry, audiences were relying more on cops and robbers instead of cowboys and Indians for their entertainment needs. It almost came as no surprise that the biggest cowboy star of them all, John Wayne never quite bridged the gap from westerns to the cop movie genre the way that say, Clint Eastwood did. The reason why Brannigan and McQ, Wayne’s only forays into the modern cop genre, failed to find an audience was because the movie-gong public so much identified with seeing Wayne out on the plains riding a horse and wearing a ten gallon hat that the sight of him driving around in a sports car and wearing a three piece suit in the present day seemed more than a bit out of place.
While seeing Wayne running around shooting criminals in modern times is a bit discombobulating, Brannigan takes that feeling a bit further by taking Wayne even more out of his element and putting him in England of all places. Wayne plays the title character, a gruff American cop sent to London to pick up a criminal (John Vernon) who jumped bail. His assignment gets complicated when his quarry gets kidnapped and a shadowy hitman keeps popping up to gun Brannigan down.
There are moments when the film threatens to come to life. We get a tense scene where the bad guys booby trap Wayne’s door (AND toilet!) with a shotgun, a decent car chase in which Wayne jumps the Thames River, as well as a great (albeit brief) fight scene with Brian Glover. There’s even a good old fashioned barroom brawl that would’ve been right at home in Rio Bravo, except for the fact that it takes place in a British pub while the jukebox plays “Let the Sunshine In”.
The movie is essentially a one note joke though. We’re supposed to find it hilarious that Wayne, playing his usual arrogant, brawny, macho self is mingling around with all of these prissy, well-mannered English people. It isn’t; and Wayne doesn’t fare very well in his unfamiliar surroundings. It also doesn’t help that director Douglas Hickox (who had just helmed the classic Vincent Price flick, Theater of Blood) films the proceedings with a flat, routine style and paces the flick in a plodding fashion.
Wayne naturally gets the best line of the movie when he enters a pub and says, “Last time I was in Britain, people were getting bombed in a different way!”