Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Coogan's Bluff" and the value of audacious action

Title: Coogan's Bluff
Released: 1968
Genre: Country cop in the big city
Notable for: Clint's first starring role in a modern, urban setting
Clint's subliminal message: "Every lady wants to bop me."

Eastwood's first cop movie was so riveting Andrew fell asleep during "Coogan's Bluff." Twice.

Brad shook him awake and called him vile names, but his heart was not in the abuse. This week Andrew is revered as The Great Raccoon Banisher.

The Raccoon Scare of 2010 happened on April 30, when Brad was out of town for a weekend of drink, depravity and leering at cleavage at the Kentucky Derby. When he arrived home on May 2, his wife explained the trauma endured in his absence.

A raccoon strolled down the chimney and promptly delivered three offspring. Thus a new generation arrived to continue the raccoon tradition of eating garbage and spreading rabies. The women of the house screamed and swooned.

Andrew did the stupidest thing ever. He went to the garage and grabbed the leaf blower. The leaf blower?

He turned on the machine and blew air and noise up the chimney. It was so stupid it worked. The mother raccoon ran out and the babies were removed by hand.

This display of cunning saved $300, which is what pest-removal guys charge around here. Three hundred goddam dollars buys a kid the right to nap during a movie.

"Coogan's Bluff" seems a little bit like a made-for-television movie from the late 1960s. And for good reason. That's exactly how the project started. Someone decided the story would make a good feature film for Clint Eastwood, so they tossed some sex and a few naked breasts into the script.

Clint plays a cop from Arizona sent to New York City to bring back a fugitive. He does a good job in the role and the movie is not exactly bad. But the basic plot is entirely predictable from the moment Clint lands in New York. We know the New York cops will assume he's an idiot from the sticks. We also know Clint will eventually show up those city slickers and maybe win their grudging respect. We know Clint will encounter difficulties with the fugitive but eventually get his man.

Two flaws do not stand up well over time.

First, the bad guys are ridiculous hippie street thugs of a sort that almost certainly never existed. This leads to plenty of supposedly humorous situations where the country cop from Arizona comes face-to-face with 1960s counterculture as imagined (in a comic-book sort of way) by Hollywood guys well past 30. It's dated, dumb and not funny now.

Second, everywhere Clint goes women want to hump him even though he lies to them and pushes them around. If that seemed feasible in 1968, it does not in 2010.

There are a couple good action sequences and the movie foreshadows "Dirty Harry" in the way Clint catches the bad guy. He takes audacious action -- lying, stealing information, roughing up a woman -- that is beyond the New York cops and their wimpy rules.

That is the lesson of manhood here: If you want to get the job done, don't be afraid to try bold action.

Be bold. Grab life by the leaf blower.

Next up: "Where Eagles Dare."