Bullitt ★★★½

Peter Yates's stylish direction, the slick editing and sheer cool factor of Steve McQueen elevate what would otherwise be a somewhat plodding police procedural to greater heights. I don't know if it's the fault of the screenplay or the original novel its adapted from, but the plotting seems unnecessarily convoluted. Whilst Bullitt's nemesis - Robert Vaughn's shady DA - draws out the main theme of politics versus justice, 'two sides of the street', the details were murky. Maybe I'm just being dumb but I found the various plot machinations poorly explicated and the critical reveal revolves around a contrivance that's hard to swallow.

None of that really matters though when you've got a director who knows how to use McQueen's screen presence to the fullest - that penetrating stare and ice cool demeanour. He's almost upstaged by his co-star though; the '68 Mustang Fastback. Bullitt's bad to the bone GT and the black Dodge Charger steal all the scenes in the iconic chase through San Francisco's precipitous streets (which must cost a small fortune in suspension bushes!). With blinkered focus, Bullitt chases the hitmen through the city streets before winding up in a fender-scraping, spark-flying face-off on the desert highway. Proper high octane shit - in the undifferentiated slag heap of car chases that's piled up over the years, it still shines bright.

A lot of credit goes to Leo Schifrin's fantastic cool jazz score too, and to DOP William A. Fraker for keeping things interesting with the cinematography; lovely framing and composition. The opening credits alone are worth the price of admission. As with The Laughing Policeman, the San Francisco locations are utilized well; there's a shot early on of reflections in a hotel window and revolving door that put me in mind of the Photorealist paintings of Richard Estes. Style over substance maybe, but if the style is strong enough, sometimes that's enough.

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