High profile San Francisco Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is asked personally by ambitious Walter Chalmers, who is in town to hold a US Senate subcommittee hearing on organized crime, to guard Johnny Ross, a Chicago based mobster who is about to turn evidence against the organization at the hearing. Chalmers wants Ross' safety at all cost, or else Bullitt will pay the consequences. Bullitt and his team of Sergeant Delgetti and Detective Carl Stanton have Ross in protective custody for 48 hours over the weekend until Ross provides his testimony that upcoming Monday. Bullitt's immediate superior, Captain Samuel Bennet, gives Bullitt full authority to lead the case, no questions asked for any move Bullitt makes. When an incident occurs early during their watch, Bullitt is certain that Ross and/or Chalmers are not telling them the full story to protect Ross properly. Without telling Bennet or an incensed Chalmers, Bullitt clandestinely moves Ross while he tries to find out who is after ... Written by
Steve McQueen's career peaked in 1968 with "Bullitt" and "The Thomas Crown Affair," both ideal vehicles for his cool persona. Although superior to its recent remake, "Crown" has not aged gracefully, while "Bullitt" has held up fairly well.
Cool though he may be, Frank Bullitt is a totally committed detective, perhaps even more so than Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle or Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan. Bullitt is a complete professional who never takes his eye off the objective, no matter how much interference he encounters from his superiors or from Robert Vaughan's scheming politician, Walter Chalmers. And Bullitt, unlike Doyle or Callahan, operates without the histrionics. No one-liners, no yelling and screaming tantrums from this officer. You may not like him very much, but you have to respect his dedication to duty and you'll quickly share his absolute contempt for Chalmers.
"Bullitt" is best remembered for its spectacular car chase in which McQueen reportedly did most of his own driving. But this is not primarily an action film. Aside from the chase and the final shootout at SFO, there's not a lot of violence. Most of the attention is on Bullitt's maneuvering to unravel the mystery and to keep Chalmers off his back.
Recommended if you like McQueen or policiers in general. The pace may be a little slow for people under 30 who are used to a more slam-bang, less cerebral approach to this sort of thing, but "Bullitt" is still worth your time. Just don't expect "Lethal Weapon."
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