"Madigan" is one of the most critically acclaimed of director Don Siegel's films, low-key and introverted by the standards of Siegel's action oeuvre. Dan Madigan (Richard Widmark) is a fine New York cop who likes to show off and freely admits to enjoying the occasional perk of the job. Police Commissioner Tony Russell (Henry Fonda) doesn't like Madigan's type. Russell is a real straight arrow, insisting that his officers be scrupulous in their own respect for the law. Madigan and his partner Rocco Bonaro (Harry Guardino) burst into the apartment of Barney Benesch (Steve Ihnat), a hood they want to take in for questioning. Benesch gets the upper hand and flees. The Commissioner puts the cops under pressure to capture Benesch before the weekend is out, while he copes with other potentially embarrassing problems in the department.
"Madigan" is based on the book "The Commissioner" by Richard Dougherty, but the focus has been shifted from the Commissioner to Madigan, as the titles imply. The action takes place over the course of 3 days, cutting back and forth between Madigan and Bonaro's efforts to track down Benesch and the Commissioner under similar pressure to deal with politically volatile issues of alleged racism and possible corruption on the part of his old friend, Chief Inspector Charlie Kane (James Whitmore). The film is talky. It's a dual character study, much of the characters being revealed in conversation. Madigan and the Commissioner are men of very different temperament, and they each have their pressures and foibles to deal with. We essentially observe how these men act under pressure. It's an unusual formula, but two great leading actors make it well worth watching.
The DVD (Universal 1999): Bonus features are a theatrical trailer (2 1/2 min), cast and filmmaker bios and selective filmographies (text), and Product Notes (text) that include comments on the conflict between director Don Siegel and producer Frank Rosenberg and some of Widmark's memories about the production. Captioning is available in English, subtitles in Spanish. Dubbing available in French.