Lieutenant Bullitt is pursuing the case of a murdered conman and the ramifications it has for a political candidate. Using tact, and street smart, Bullitt attempts to solve the mystery while saving himself in the process. But is it too late?
Bullitt is a classic film by Peter Yates where Steve McQueen got to play the hardboiled detective for the first time. The film is probably one of the best well-known McQueen act and probably cemented his career as the king of cool and an actor’s actor.
This movie is remembered mostly for its car chase through San Francisco. Yates and his crew filmed the car chase without tricks and McQueen drove the Mustang pursuing the villains. It’s a great car chase though the cars were reinforced so they would not collapse as they sped through the bumpy hills of San Francisco. What I like about the car chase is the action/reaction staging of Bullitt’s Mustang as it follows the Charger. McQueen and Bill Hickman, the driver of the charger, had different driving styles. Hickman felt more methodical and less sloppy than McQueen who often had to correct himself. But those corrections added to the charm of the race as it really felt like nothing was staged.
Bullitt as a name reminds me of ‘bully.’ This is what McQueen plays here. He is a bully to bad guys with a sense of pursuit that we can see through his grunts and looks, more than with words. Here, unlike in other films like the Towering Inferno, McQueen was not concerned with the number of speaking lines he had. Much of the action is procedural. Skip a few minutes and the story will stop making sense.
However, you can always catch up with the film in one of the many action scenes. Here McQueen chases various villains by foot, jumping running, driving, skipping in staircases violently until he catches his target. The film is cut with a few moments of tenderness with his girlfriend, offering viewers another side of the taciturn hero. The plot in Bullitt doesn’t matter as much as the chase and the conflict of a man chasing others to escape his own being.