McQ (1974)


(director: John Sturges; screenwriter: Lawrence Roman; cinematographer: Harry Stradling, Jr.; editor: William H. Ziegler; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: John Wayne (Det. Lt. Lon McQ), Eddie Albert (Capt. Ed Kosterman), Diana Muldaur (Lois Boyle), Colleen Dewhurst (Myra), Clu Gulager (Franklin Toms), David Huddleston (Edward M. ‘Pinky’ Farrow), Jim Watkins (J.C. Davis), Julie Adams (Elaine Forrester), Al Lettieri (Manny Santiago), William Bryant (Sgt. Stan Boyle), Roger E. Mosley (Rosey, snitch), Dick Friel (Bob Mahoney, lawyer); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Lawrence Roman/Arthur Gardner/Jules Levy; Warner Brothers; 1974)
“A rethinking, if you will, by the Duke of turning down the role of Dirty Harry.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An aging and overweight John Wayne lumbers along in a poor imitation of Clint Eastwood’s transformation from cowboy to maverick detective (not afraid of breaking the law to get his man); a rethinking, if you will, by the Duke of turning down the role of Dirty Harry. It’s directed in an unappealing and muddled fashion by John Sturges; Co-producer Lawrence Roman is the screenwriter. It’s set in Seattle (filmed on location); it ties in its story about institutional corruption with Wayne’s right-wing philosophy. But after exposing the New America as a place where everyone is out for themselves and anyone can be bought, that is, except for Wayne, does nothing with its grand discovery.

Sergeant Boyle (William Bryant) gets gunned down in the early morning hours in a Seattle street after assassinating two uniformed policemen. His partner Lt. Lon McQ (John Wayne) vows to get the assailant, as he consoles Stan’s wife Lois (Diana Muldaur)–who doesn’t seem to be grieving too much from her loss. McQ, after a hit man fails to take him out on the docks of Puget Sound, goes after big-time drug dealer Manny Santiago (Al Lettieri), who uses the cover of a freighting business to hide his shady dealings. Beating the daylights out of Santiago in the restroom of a bar, McQ is suspended from the force but resigns instead to go after the guilty parties by himself. McQ enlists the help of private detective Pinky Farrow (David Huddleston) to secure a licensed gun and give him an excuse for investigating the murder. The search for the truth has McQ discovering his beloved police department is corrupt. He gets no help from the feckless police chief Franklin Toms (Clu Gulager) and his immediate superior Captain Ed Kosterman ( Eddie Albert), who do all they can to block his moves. Through snitches, including a junkie named Myra (Colleen Dewhurst), he discovers his friend Boyle was a dirty cop. Later when $2 million dollars worth of drugs to be burned in the police “property section” is stolen by Santiago’s men, McQ will locate the drug dealer and find out that the cops double-crossed the Mafia boys. They have been burning sugar all the time instead of the drugs. The police insiders even set the straight McQ up by hiding the junk in his Camaro, which everyone affectionately calls the Green Hornet, and for awhile McQ is suspected of being in on the drug scam.

Wayne seems dumbfounded to find that all he stood for is venal. But nothing really registers or matters, as a miscast Wayne can’t handle condemning the sacred structures he’s been a patriotic voice for his whole career and the weak script lets it all slip away into just another meaningless action film. The filmmakers seemed more concerned with getting their stunt riders to make it look good, like in the set piece car chase on the beach, rather than expand on ideas.