Policemen Bonaro and Madigan lose their guns to fugitive Barney Benesch. As compensation, the two NYC detectives are given a weekend to bring Benesch to justice. While Bonaro and Madigan follow up on various leads, Police Commissioner Russell goes about his duties, including attending functions, meeting with aggrieved relatives, and counseling the spouses of fallen officers.
Richard Widmark ... Det. Daniel Madigan
Henry Fonda ... Commissioner Anthony X. Russell
Inger Stevens ... Julia Madigan
Harry Guardino ... Det. Rocco Bonaro
James Whitmore ... Chief Insp. Charles Kane
Susan Clark ... Tricia Bentley
Michael Dunn ... Midget Castiglione
Steve Ihnat ... Barney Benesch
Don Stroud ... Hughie
Sheree North ... Jonesy
Warren Stevens ... Capt. Ben Williams
Raymond St. Jacques ... Dr. Taylor
Bert Freed ... Chief of Detectives Hap Lynch
Benefitting from the location shooting in New York of the Sixties, Madigan is a fast paced police action thriller. Richard Widmark and Harry Guardino are a pair of veteran NYPD detectives who get the tables turned on them by a suspected killer they were trying to bring in. They've got 72 hours to find him or face the consequences. In addition to losing suspect Steve Ihnat, Ihnat also relieved them of their police weapons.
You get the feeling that both Widmark and Guardino are past their prime and maybe ought to be coasting towards retirement with desk duty. The way Ihnat gets the better of them in the movie has to be seen to be believed and I won't say more.
Widmark and Guardino are both good in their parts, but the acting honors have to go to Steve Ihnat in this film. He is one the most maniacal killers ever brought to the silver screen and you won't forget him after seeing Madigan. Tragically he died four years after this film was made and a great career was cut short. Besides this film, Ihnat is probably best known for another maniacal portrayal on a Star Trek episode where he's a convict who takes over a futuristic prison and wants to use the Enterprise as a getaway vehicle.
The film is based on a novel entitled The Commissioner and that title part goes to Henry Fonda. In the films of Henry Fonda he says he was tricked into this film. As you might gather the character of the NYPD Police Commissioner is the central one in the novel and it was on that basis that Fonda took the part. Didn't turn out that way, but Fonda stuck it out, partially because he admired Widmark as a player having worked with him previously in Warlock.
Madigan being directed by Don Siegel is a forerunner of the more famous Harry Callahan character that Siegel directed Clint Eastwood in the first of the Dirty Harry films.
The action doesn't slow for a second even in the scenes not involving the pursuit of Ihnat because of the tension Siegel creates. And of course the character created by Ihnat.
Detective Daniel Madigan (Richard Widmark) and Detective Rocco Bonaro (Harry Guardino) enter a squalid Manhattan apartment building to pick up Barney Benesch (Steve Ihnat), who is wanted for questioning on a case in Brooklyn. When Benesch manages to take Madigan and Bonaro's guns away and escape, Police Commissioner Anthony X Russell (Henry Fonda) tells them that they have 72 hours to get Benesch back, or else.
Out of all of the Don Siegel-directed films I've seen to date, this was the biggest disappointment. The film begins and ends with fantastic action sequences--well directed, well shot, with a nice, gritty feel, but in between the film felt overlong, overly complex, and far too soap-opera-like for my tastes.
It could be due to Madigan being adapted from a novel, but Abraham Polonsky and Howard Rodman's ("Henri Simoun" here) script includes so many different threads, most of them inconsequential to the outcome of the film, that it almost begins to lose coherence in the middle. It's a bad sign when the major arc of the story is completed, but characters still have to engage in a number of "But what about so and so?" verbal tags at the end of the film to try to satisfy the audience.
It feels almost as if Madigan is made for two entirely different crowds--one, fans of gritty crime action films, and the other, fans of realist dramas cum soap operas. I can't imagine the former caring about most of the material in the middle (unless it had a pay off towards their genre), and I can't imagine the latter being interested in the action scenes. Most of the material in the middle, although it has some more than admirable dialogue and decent performances, hinges on a complex web of personal and professional relationships--various romantic affairs, questionable relations between the police and citizens, and so on. It all comes to naught in the end. Also not helping is Henry Fonda's odd aloofness. Again, it might work if it had some other payoff, but it doesn't.
Still, the positive aspects were good enough to not bring my score below a 6. The film might also play better on a second viewing, where you better know how to adjust your expectations as it goes along. On a first, uninformed viewing, the beginning is likely to gear you up for a great, suspenseful and witty ride, leaving you disappointed in the middle, until you finally adjust and then you're awakened again with action at the end.
Everything about this movie sounded so cool and promising (the '60s;Siegel;Widmark!),but "Madigan" is even better than I expected. My expectations were high,but this movie exceeded them.First,it must be said that this is not a crime film, or anything of the sort,but a movie about a few days of Detective Madigan's life.It is,indeed,the surprising portrait of a man.
The concreteness,the vigor,the sobriety,the directness of this extremely well-done and fast-paced movie are amazing.A director who does such a film really respects his public.It is a fact that,directing his "Madigan",Siegel made not even one single mistake.Everything fits.The pace is maintained powerfully ("Year of the Dragon" does not bear comparison with "Madigan").
Widmark is a standout as Madigan,a brutal and lively detective.Widmark's performance has a shocking intensity and strength.This role is a CREATION,and shows again the astonishing qualities Widmark had.He looks as cold,tough and sinister as usually.(I'm glad this movie was made,because Widmark deserved it so much!)I grant Fonda's character needed to be developed,enlarged,explained.
For one reason or another,"Madigan" is not a very famous movie.But this means nothing,the vast majority of the great movies aren't famous nor awarded.
"Russell"'s mistress has a fine line:"Adultery is a lonely business".
This movie is unconventional,intelligent and precise;it is thrilling as Balzac is,as life is.