With a back catalogue that includes seminal Spaghetti Westerns such as A Fistful Of Dollars and gritty dramas like Play Misty For Me, it’s perhaps no surprise that Coogan’s Bluff tends to get lost amongst Clint Eastwood’s larger filmography. Yet this was the film that served as Eastwood’s transition from art-house cinema to big-budget action-ers.
It was also the first of five collaborations between Eastwood and director Don Siegel, which would go on to include Dirty Harry and Escape From Alcatraz. Siegel would later prove to be a huge influence on Eastwood’s developing style, both as an actor and as a director.
Here we see Eastwood in the sort of role that he’s arguably most comfortable with: the laconic tough guy, playing by his own set of rules and morals. It’s, in fact, a Western without the Western setting.
Walter Coogan (Eastwood), a soft-spoken, straightforward Arizona lawman, is sent to New York City to extradite a murderer (Dan Stroud). After accidentally letting the prisoner escape, Coogan gets caught up in a life-or-death manhunt throughout the mean streets of the city. Naturally, Coogan’s unconventional law enforcement techniques don’t go over too well with frustrated NYC Police Lieutenant McElroy (Lee J. Cobb), who can’t decide which is worse—the prisoner, or the lawman.
Cop dramas used to be big business and Siegel’s light touch and sure direction remind you how watchable this genre can be with the right people behind—and in front-of the camera.