This is another of the John Wayne productions from the 1970s. Wayne had his own production company, Batjac Productions, then and made a number of these during the last years of his life. He died in 1979 at the age of 72. His son Michael Wayne is listed as a co-producer, as with a film previously reviewed.
This is McQ, and it also features Eddie Albert and Diana Muldaur. It was released in 1974 and distributed by Warner Brothers. I recorded the DVD from Turner classic movies. Details are from Wikipedia.
This is in Seattle. We see a hit man wearing dark glasses and wielding a semi-automatic pistol with a silencer shoot two police officers at separate locations. He turns out to be Police Detective Sergeant Stan Boyle (William Bryant), and before the bodies have a chance to cool, he takes a shotgun blast to the back.
He was the partner of Police Detective Lieutenant Lon “McQ” McHugh (John Wayne). McQ gets the news while still in bed on his boat Apparently a lot of people in Seattle live on boats. He goes topside just in time to scare off some dude breaking into his car, a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that goes by the name “Green Hornet.” A couple of off shots from a feckless hit man on the pier next gets his attention, and he levels the miscreant at a range of about 75 yards. McQ is not the guy you ever want to mess with.
Something is afoot, and we haven’t figured it out yet. McQ consoles the (soon to be) widow Boyle (Muldaur).
There’s a bunch of give and take between McQ and his boss, Captain Edward Kosterman (Eddie Albert). The captain thinks the killings are due to reactionary gangs, popular on the streets in those days. McQ thinks otherwise, and he goes after drug king pin Manny Santiago (Al Lettieri), roughing him up in the back restroom of an eatery.
This doesn’t go well with the captain, and McQ turns in his badge and his gun. Looking on is Detective Franklyn Toms (Clu Gulager), soon to become more prominent in the plot.
McQ goes private and continues to work the case on his own nickel. Word on the street is that a huge drug heist is in the works, and Santiago is behind it. A drug boss looking to steal drugs? From whom? Only the police have any quantity of drugs. They’re going to steal the evidence stash. What a caper!
McQ figures the caper will go down when the load is taken to be incinerated. He follows the transport van to the (supposedly) undisclosed combustion site and gets there in time to give chase to a trio disguised as laundry workers. They have cold-cocked the four cops and made off in a laundry van. McQ loses the van in traffic.
But he figures Santiago has the loot. And he has, and is he pissed. It’s not dope, it’s sugar. The drugs were stolen by cops long ago, which begins to explain a lot.
Yes, Sergeant Boyle was in on it. Likewise the now widow Boyle. Likewise Detective Toms. McQ catches a ride out of town with the widow Boyle, suspected to have the real stash in her baggage. She does, and Detective Toms wants it. But McQ puts the unfortunate Toms down in a shootout along the way.
Enter Santiago and his cronies. They want what McQ and the widow have. There is a car chase, involving three vehicles, a chase that ends up on a Pacific beach. McQ has “borrowed” a mean piece of hardware from a gun dealer, and he wipes out one of the pursuing cars on the run. That’s what’s left of it in the background. Here we see McQ finishing off Santiago and the remaining henchman.
The movie ends with Mrs. Boyle getting a ride into town in a sheriff’s car. The police captain gives McQ his badge back, and they all head to a beach bar for a drink.
Ben Mankiewicz introduced the movie on TCM and explained the circumstances behind the stunt involving that car in the background:
Hal Needham, the legendary maverick stunt car driver, performed the very first car stunt utilizing a black powder cannon charge to help flip the car without ramps in this film. The climatic car chase seen on the beach, near the end of the movie, was first practiced on the back lots of LA, and on the 2nd practice run, that was unknowingly overcharged, Needham was nearly killed. Gary McLarty then performed the dynamic stunt flawlessly (and injury free) for the film.
Mankiewicz remarked that Needham was paid $30,000 for the job. He suffered a broken back and a punctured lung. Great work when you can get it.
What’s wrong with this is the story? A cop goes around shooting other cops in plain sight of anybody who might be looking on. And it’s expected nobody is going to notice and drop a dime on him?
Cops have this conspiracy to steal dope from the evidence room, and they cap it off by eliminating three of their number involved. Does this sound limber-brained or what?
The drug gang brings in three outsiders to do some dirty work, including rubbing out McQ. Subsequently Santiago’s guys hold up a squad of cops and take the drugs, but they don’t kill them, leaving witnesses. Why the change of heart?
McQ’s buddy is stealing drugs, and he has hidden a stash in the “Green Hornet.” Why? Subsequently there is an attempt to retrieve the drugs from the car by ramming it with a couple of huge trucks. Unless I lost count, by now the scheme is down to just Mrs. Boyle and Detective Toms. Who was driving the second big truck? If there was a third conspirator involved, what happened to him?
Santiago figures the widow Boyle has the drugs, and he and his entire crew go after the car. There follows a big chase and shootout on the beach. With one car wrecked and four gunnies dead, he still wants to deal with McQ for the drugs. Is he out of his blinking mind? Any sane person would cut his loses and skedaddle. He and his lone remaining gunman figure to shoot it out on the beach and still come out ahead. With likely the world looking on. What is Santiago’s plan B? With all vehicles destroyed, is he going to escape by swimming to Tahiti?
It’s possible I’ve become spoiled by watching too many upscale productions recently, but the second tier talent in this production is right out of summer stock. They’re reading their lines from cue cards.
Wayne made three more films after this one, and I have two of them. Stand by for reviews.