Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda star in this critically acclaimed detective drama that takes a hard-hitting look at the lives and loves of New York City's top cops. Directed in gripping documentary fashion by Don Siegel, Richard Widmark portrays the veteran Big Apple detective who is given only a few hours to track down a vicious killer. Henry Fonda is the humane yet relentlessly foreceful police commissioner who orders Widmark into the streets to solve the case, even though he knows it might be his last assignment.
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They don't make detective thrillers like this anymore. Madigan is a gem from the '60s, anticipating the more popular French Connection and Dirty Harry with its gritty urban realism. However, this film has a wonderful poetry and sense of camaraderie, thanks to Abraham Polonsky's writing and Don Siegel's inspired direction. Richard Widmark plays a hardbitten New York cop who must redeem himself after losing his gun to a psychotic thug (a plot somewhat reminiscent of Kurosawa's Stray Dog). Henry Fonda costars as a stern police commissioner overwhelmed by his day-to-day decisions. He can't stand Widmark's freewheeling attitude, but he's a hypocrite when it comes to his own private life. Moral decisions don't come easy in this contemplative film. Fine support is provided by Harry Guardino as Widmark's partner, Inger Stevens as Widmark's wife, James Whitmore as Fonda's slightly corrupt pal, and Steve Ihnat as Widmark's charismatic nemesis. --Bill Desowitz
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