Bullitt (PG) - 1968 - Runtime: 114 minutes
Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bissett
Director: Peter Yates
I have a really hard time with movies that were made before the 80s. I don't know if it's the style of the movies, the music or some other factor that prevents me from truly enjoying older movies, but I just can't fall in love with movies from before my time. I guess I grew up on the modern movie, the blockbuster. Don't get me wrong, there's some older movies I absolutely enjoy, 12 Angry Men and Double Indemnity to name just a few. So I watched Bullitt, a suggested movie from someone, with this in mind, trying to keep myself open to enjoy it.
The back of the box boasts that Bullitt "features one of cinema history's most memorable car chases." So I was excited, figuring I was in for a pretty good action flick (it was in the action section at Blockbuster). However, I soon realized this was a slow, slow boiler of a movie. There really isn't any action save for the car chase scene. Which is absolutely one of the better car chase scenes I've ever seen. Mainly because it's so visceral and real - the angles of the camera, the noise of the gear shift and the roller coaster ride of San Francisco's streets - all make for a very entertaining and believable car chase. I was amused that he was chasing two old dudes - the driver of the assassin's car looked like my grandfather when he was 60.
As for the plot, it's fairly straight-forward: Bullitt (yes, that's his name in the movie) is charged with protecting a key witness for a huge organized crime trial. Why he's in San Francisco when the trial is set in Chicago? Don't know, I guess San Fran is secluded and they probably thought the gays may scare off any would-be assassins. Not so, by the end of the night the witness has been shot and Bullitt is determined to find the hitmen. And from there things get...very...slow.
Bullitt himself has very few lines in the movie. He speaks with his gun and his eyes. Oh, those eyes. If you counted how many minutes McQueen just stares (looking a bit dead behind the eyes), you'd have half the movie right there. That's the main problem with the movie (much like, as Maggie pointed out, MTV's The Hills - a show filled with long stares and dramatic pauses): there's just too many unnecessarily long shots. Getting in and out of cars takes a full half minute, there's a shot of an airplane pulling up to the terminal that lasts about a minute. And Bullitt seems to be comtemplating his situation way too much. It was so jarring at times. There's a particular scene in which Bullitt is chasing the hitman through the hospital. He's walking into a room without even having his gun out and ready. Either that takes balls (and we're supposed to believe Bullitt has some huge cajones and possibly a stick up his ass), or he's incredibly stupid or someone just forgot to give McQueen stage directions. But I can't help feel that Jack Bauer still holds the crown for the ballsiest badass on screen (I've said balls a lot in this review, haven't I? And in different languages!).
As for the good parts, the aforementioned car chase is awesome. And the cinematography - mainly the camera angles, are really cool. But that's about it, I really kept waiting for McQueen to unleash the beast and start kicking some ass, but we just get this sappy sidestory with his girlfriend about how he's so disattached from the real world. He can't switch off, as Nick Angel would say. I wish I could say the same about this movie. Zing!
Rating: Not Worth Paying For