McQ: Dirty John Wayne


McQ (1974): Breakdown by Kain424

A cop does everything he legally can to find out the plot behind his cop friend’s death.


With the popularity of Westerns dropping, and having missed out on the role of Dirty Harry, John Wayne decided to make his own cop movie.  McQ is visually and tonally similar to Dirty Harry in most respects, but manages to be neither as dark nor entertaining.  Wayne plays his detective a man of another time, using 50s tactics against a new breed of thugs; but more importantly, crooked cops.

The biggest difference between the two films seems to be McQ‘s focus on Wayne’s do-right character’s sensibilities and stunts, compared to Dirty Harry‘s politics and sense of righteous justice.  The stuntwork seems to be an effort to compete with films like Bullitt, and while the final car chase is nicely done, it doesn’t completely shake one of the boredom contained in the rest of the film.

Action fans will find little of note here, outside a few crushed vehicles and one shootout.  In these movies there is usually an ending featuring the protagonist either in silent, desperate, and often isolated contemplation or a general “fuck it” attitude.  Wayne liked happy endings, so this one concludes unusually.

There is ample focus on McQ’s car and Ingram MAC-10, but without good characters or Action to hide away the plot holes, the whole thing ends up feeling like a so-so effort in the gritty cop genre.  So while it’s interesting historically, I can’t really recommend it to anyone beyond big fans of similar films.


John Wayne is Lieutenant Detective Lon McQ

Wayne plays the guy as less a character than a personal reaction to the changing of the times.  He is stubborn in his refusal to change his ways, clever, but more apt to go for the brute force solution to whatever obstacle may be in his way.

Lon McQ’s backstory is all referred to but never delved deeply into, as if we were to infer that he is merely a culmination of many John Wayne roles.  Still, he drives a sweet-ass ’64 Firebird, carries around a MAC-10, and lives on boat.  So points for those.


Like Dirty Harry you won’t see a huge bodycount here, but most of the kills are performed by Wayne, who gets 8 bad guys.  The rest are bad guy territory, usually not too violent, but fairly gritty.  A woman is shot a few times in the stomach, and several cops are shot with a silenced handgun, one of whom dies later, offscreen.


During the climactic chase, Wayne fumbles around for his bag carrying his awesome gun.  He finally grabs it, shoots out his window and:

[flashvideo filename=videos/McQ.avi.FLV /]

Copyright held by Warner Bros.


This may just be the straightest John Wayne film ever made.  Everyone’s married or has been married, and Wayne even bangs a hooker.  It isn’t long after McQ’s partner is dead that he nearly tags the late guy’s widow as well.  These cop movies need to loosen up.


Well, a hooker gets exploited by John Wayne, and there is a pimp seen several times in the film.  Still, the pimp is probably the kindest and most polite mackdaddy I have yet to see featured in any movie, and the hooker seems to actually fall for Wayne’s character.  Or it could be the cocaine balloons he gave her prior to their getting it on.  I didn’t mention that he gave her cocaine?  Well, he did.  In balloons.  You know, for love.


The final chase scene along the beach.

Two cars full of angry mob members chase John Wayne’s character along a beach.  Unfortunately for them, he is well equipped with a MAC-10, and their puny weapons don’t even scratch him.  Because he’s John Wayne.

Anyhow, this scene features the first on-film use of the mechanism that blasts a car so that it flips over and over in a crash stunt.  Probably the best part of the film.

The one-liner occurs when some guy lets McQ try out his new Ingram MAC-10.  McQ likes it so much he just puts it in his bag along with a few extra clips.

Gun guy (in protest): “Lon, it’s not licensed!”

McQ (not giving a shit): “Jack, neither am I.”


The good guys always win because they’re good.

[THE CHECKLIST: 12 outta 25]

[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[  ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[  ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[  ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[  ] Factory/Warehouse
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[  ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[  ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[  ] Manly Embrace(s)
[  ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[  ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[  ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[  ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[  ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[  ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice