By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is a police Lieutenant assigned to guard a mob witness in preparation for a Senate Subcommittee hearing. While home from his shift, assassins break into the hotel room and shoot both the witness and Detective Stanton, who was filling in for Bullitt. While neither one is killed outright, the witness later dies in hospital. Desperate to find the killers, Bullitt conceals the death, and ramps up an obsessive and very personal investigation.
This police procedural drama from the late 60’s was massively influential, with a dark storyline, brutal violence, and cynical themes of dejection which gave the film grit. Prior to Bullitt, most crime dramas focused on heroic cops and evil gangsters, or Robin Hood-like criminals. This was the first time that the grey areas of crime and punishment were so heavily explored. Themes developed in Bullitt directly influenced everything from the Dirty Harry, to The French Connection, to Heat and many other classics.
The movie is perhaps most well known for the unabashedly tense car chase, which is definitely a highlight. (Steve McQueen did all of his own stunt driving), but this great sequence can often make the rest of the story, which is far lower key, easy to overlook. The performances are solid, and Director Peter Yates’ direction keeps things moving at a steady pace.
The weakest part of the film however are the sequences involving Bullitt’s love-life. The scenes starring Bullitt’s girlfriend Cathy (Jaqueline Bisset) drag the pacing of the film down, and seem to have been put in the film simply to have a female character. While I’m not against having a strong female character in films, this subplot just doesn’t work well, and in fact is abandoned pretty unceremoniously near the end anyway.
Not in this movie you can’t…
Slight flaws aside, this film is a solid piece of genre filmmaking.
Bodycounter: drink for each death
Take a Drink: when Chalmers gets angry with Bullitt
Have a boilermaker: during the car-chase scene