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The epitome of cool.
MartinHafer11 September 2010
This film begins with perhaps the most perfect opening title sequence in film history. The look, the sounds and the titles themselves....all very, very cool. Lalo Schifrin's song is the perfect jazz tune to accompany this and you just know that this movie is something special.

The title character (Steve McQueen) is a Lieutenant with the San Francisco police and he and his partner (Don Gordon) are assigned the task to protect a mob informant. Now considering that this is an action-suspense film, what happens next is no big surprise. However, what was nice is how the film combined realistic looking police work with amazing action and grittiness--like combining Film Noir with and action film as well as a healthy dose of cool. I could say more about the plot, but would rather not--as there are a lot of mystery elements about the film and I'd hate to ruin the surprises and twists.

The most famous part of this film is, of course, the great car chase scene--featuring a Ford Mustang playing 'cat and mouse' with a Dodge Charger up and down the hills of the city. It's a magnificent scene but fortunately there's a lot more to the film than this--it's NOT just this chase but a well-made and intelligent cop film--a very gritty one at that. To make things even better, the film featuring some excellent actors doing their craft in addition to McQueen--such as Robert Vaughn, Simon Oakland and Don Gordon--who I have always thought was an underrated actor.

If you see this film, you may see some parallels with the later Dirty Harry series. Both are set in San Francisco, both feature an undercover cop who hates to play by the rules and both are tough characters. However, McQueen's 'Bullit' is more cool and thoughtful but a lot less intensely angry--and as a result a lot easier to believe...but also a bit less entertaining as he doesn't have all those wonderful Eastwood tag-lines! Personally, I prefer McQueen's style--you may not.

Overall, the film is exceptional--one of the best police films of the era. In fact, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to give it a 9 or 10--and giving any film a 10 is something I very, very rarely do. Why a 10? Well the film has got it all--an interesting plot, great action, terrific tension and a realism that sets it apart from the usual cop film. And, it sure has style to boot. Not surprisingly, this film was very influential and was followed by many police films which were reminiscent of "Bullitt"--such as "The French Connection", "McQ" and, of course, the Dirty Harry films. The only deficits, and they are very, very minor, is that perhaps McQueen is too cool and quiet as well as how inexplicable it is in the airport scene that none of the many, many travelers seem to notice he is holding a gun. You'd think someone would notice and say something! Still, it's a great film from start to finish and it holds up marvelously over time.
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A wonderful movie and I think important too
TheLittleSongbird6 October 2011
I have seen a lot of movies in my short(19 years) life. Some have amazed me, some have been awful. Bullitt is not quite among the best movies I've seen, but it is a wonderful movie and I think too special and important.

Why is it important? Many things really, starting with it being the first mainstream film to be shot entirely on location, with the use of real doctors and architects and it actually made an effort to be accurate with police procedures.

One might argue that these don't necessarily make a good movie. Maybe, I am not saying that because of the film doing all this it is automatically good. What I am saying is that whether I didn't like or loved the movie(in this case loved) I would always try to acknowledge its importance, if it has any.

I can understand in a sense why some mayn't enjoy Bullitt as it is a slow and talky movie. That said, I don't consider any of these flaws in any way. The dialogue is intelligent and clever even in the talky moments, and even though I would hardly call Bullitt a fast-moving movie I personally wouldn't call it a dull one either, thanks to Peter Yates' taut and efficient direction.

For starters Bullitt is very well made, with wonderful locations and interesting cinematography. Sparse it may be, but the music by Lalo Schriffin is very effective, slick and very jazzy.

Bullitt's story is straight-forward but compelling, the violence even then and even now is unashamedly unapologetic. I have seen my fair of movies that had at least one shocking scene, but the killing of the man standing in for Johnny Ross is on a whole new level of shock and engagement value.

The cast are great. Steve McQueen with his piercing eyes and charisma, like he did in The Great Escape, epitomises cool and grit, and Robert Vaughn and Robert Duvall give their usual rock-solid performances. Jacqueline Bissett is perhaps the least exceptional, but even she manages to not be in the shadow too much.

And I cannot talk about Bullitt without mentioning the car chase. It is electrifying, not only was it shot entirely at speed with no under-cranking in sight but McQueen did most of his own driving.

In conclusion, a wonderful movie, and I think it is too an important and interesting one. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Before There Was Harry Callahan...............
bkoganbing18 January 2008
If Steve McQueen had been of a mind like Clint Eastwood, his Frank Bullitt could have had a whole series of films based on this character. Imagine how that would have been viewed today.

Like Callahan, Bullitt is a detective working for the San Francisco, PD and he and partner Don Gordon draw a rather routine assignment, guarding a witness scheduled to appear before Robert Vaughn's investigating committee. Routine except when a couple of hit men get to both the witness and another cop relieving McQueen and Gordon.

Vaughn's character is left purposely vague. I'm still not quite sure of what kind of committee he was running, a legislative one, or something like the Knapp Commission in New York. What we do know about him is that he is one ruthless self aggrandizing politician, it's one acid characterization.

The rest of the film is McQueen and Gordon trying to get to the bottom of why things went wrong and at the same time avoiding Vaughn who has vowed to make them the scapegoats for the fiasco. It turns out to be quite an interesting story of organized crime intrigue. The user turns out to be one who is badly used.

Steve McQueen's Frank Bullitt may not quite have the dramatic flare in the way he dispatches the bad guys of Clint Eastwood, but he's a man of integrity here, more than in any other film I've seen him in. McQueen also sticks to his job with grit and determination until he gets his man.

Had he wanted to I'm sure we'd be dealing with a whole lot of Bullitt films in the same way we had Dirty Harry Callahan come back four more times. That wasn't McQueen's desire, too bad he never repeated the character.

On the other hand if he made more of these, would we have not seen Junior Bonner, The Getaway, Papillon?
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Michael_Elliott11 March 2008
Bullitt (1968)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

As others has stated, the actually story doesn't make too much sense but I guess that really doesn't matter because this baby is Steve McQueen's picture all the way. The highlight of the film is certainly the legendary car chase sequence, which is very exciting throughout. What I really enjoy about the chase is McQueen's calm and cool nature while driving. I'm not sure what it is but the way he seems to be handling this chase like a Sunday drive through the park just puts a smile on my face and brings out that coolness in McQueen. The rest of the picture isn't nearly as good and I feel it could have lost ten to fifteen minutes worth of footage. There are countless scenes that run on way too long so a bit more editing would have helped.
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A great detective film with some fantastic action
Leofwine_draca19 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
As far as tough police thrillers go, BULLITT is, quite simply, one of the best there is. An iconic leading performance and superb, stylish direction from Peter Yates help add to the BULLITT experience. It's one of those films that has something special about it to keep you rewatching. The loose plot itself is nothing to write home about, but everything else about the film is fantastic. Take, for instance, Yates and his direction, in which it appears thought and effort has been put into every shot, such as where to place the camera, and the particular lighting effect, etc. The editing is also excellent, as to be seen in the memorable car chase through the streets of San Francisco, and the pacing is slow but just right. There's nothing really that could have been done to better this film in any way.

The film really belongs to Steve McQueen, as it contains one of the actor's most notable performances. His presence is so strong here that he leaves an impression on the screen even when he's not there. Although he spends a lot of time on screen, you end up dying for him to return when he's not just to watch his method acting. McQueen plays a lot of the film using just his eyes and the effect is tremendous; I know he has his detractors but I can't fault his performance here. If I was an actor this is how I would want to come across on screen.

Although McQueen is given most of the limelight, some veteran performers help fill out other cast roles; particularly Robert Vaughn, playing his slimiest part as a corrupt politician out for his own ends who continually hounds McQueen and his men. Don Gordon and Simon Oakland deserve mention for their fine turns as fellow police members whilst a youthful Robert Duvall appears briefly as a cab driver. Jacqueline Bisset is also here as McQueen's girlfriend, although her screen time is minimal and largely reduced to hanging around and looking pretty as eye candy when the time calls for it.

BULLITT is a very suspenseful film all the way through - especially the opening moments leading up to the murder attempt - and alternates between spots of brooding mystery and mad excitement. The biggest set piece is the car chase through San Francisco, which is one of the most stylishly portrayed out there, and has a great use of music which propelled it into classic status. However my favourite moment is the airport chase at the finale, which goes on for quite some time but is never less than gripping. BULLITT is a surprisingly violent film at times, but the violence is used for a reason, as a way of making it realistic and a warts-and-all type of thriller, not just another glossy television episode. Excellent stuff and Hollywood at its finest.
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forgettable story done without intensity ... but then there's the car chase
SnoopyStyle12 November 2014
San Francisco Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is asked by politician Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) to guard gangster Johnny Ross who turned state evidence for a US Senate subcommittee hearing on organized crime. Cathy (Jacqueline Bisset) is his girl. Two of his men get shot. He isn't sure who to trust and is forced to investigate on his own.

The story is pretty bland. The dialog is awfully stiff. There is no tension because the pace is rather lax. It's a weak movie for most of the time. Then there is the car chase. It's a fun stunt-filled action sequence. It's not up to the well-constructed level of 'The French Connection' three years later but it's quite a step up in car chase action. It doesn't use projection screens. It's the real deal with real cars driving on real streets. The San Francisco hills make for a great car chase. It is still compelling to this day.
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A Benchmark Film for Future Cop Movies
Hitchcoc8 December 2016
Steve McQueen led a short life. He did, during that time, make some significant movies. "Bullitt" is one of them. Here he plays a cop who has had enough of rules and regulations. Perhaps he would be considered a bad cop. He chases the worst of the worst. He is a prototype for Dirty Harry in all those Eastwood films. This film has two elements. Really bad guys and a politician who is at the center of much of the drama. Not only must Bullitt apprehend these killers; he must look out for himself. If this seems clichéd, it's because this movie put it out there first. I hadn't seen Peckinpaugh yet, so this was the first movie where I saw graphic special effects of the damage done by a weapon. Of course, to most, the car chase through the hills of San Francisco is the most memorable part of this film.
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Iconic cool cop movie
bob the moo16 July 2002
Detective Lieut. Frank Bullitt is personally requested by political big-wig Walter Chalmers to guard an important witness. When the witness is killed, Bullitt covers it up in order to buy himself time to find the killers. However with Chalmers putting pressure on him to hand over the witness time is at the minimum.

This film is so well known that even those who haven't seen it know some elements of it. The cool music and the car chases have been copied in many films and imitated in several adverts (including the cut and paste one). The plot itself is nothing special but allows for the action to move nicely along. The opening scene sets the tone – the cool soundtrack with a tense build up to the action scene underneath the credits. From there it is a good mix of action, tension and political games between Chalmers and Bullitt.

McQueen is the iconic cool as ever and is really good here without overdoing the tough cop stuff. Vaughn is also excellent – he is a great slick politician. Outside of these two the rest are support – it's interesting to see Duvall after all the years, but Bisset is really wasted and all her scenes slow the film down.

Overall this deserves it's semi-cult status simply because it's cool – from the stylish chases to the cool music by Schifrin. Not the most inventive film in the world but really damn cool nonetheless.
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Realism is ... good(?)
kosmasp15 January 2020
I have not read the source material this is based on. And as a friend pointend out, it took me long enough to come around watching this. Then again I might have had issues with the degree of realism depicted here at a certain point in my life. That but also an incredibe car chase is something that connects this movie and French Connection.

The car chase apparently was not in the book, but the director already had done an excellent car chase in his previous movie (haven't seen that one yet either), so they decided to put one in the movie too. Apparently a lot of other things were changed too. Some smaller details, some maybe bigger things. Also if you have an actor (personality) like Steve McQueen, things change too. He was very aware of his status and he knew what he wanted.

Not always easy to work with I reckon, but had a heart of gold too. Humans are complex after all. I do recommend watching a documentary with him in as the main focus, even though I do not agree with all the sentiments (Magnificent Seven was not stolen away from Yul Brunner in my humble opinion).

Having said that, the movie at hand breaks a lot ground and for the time set standards or did things others were not able to afford. Like having Africen American characters in positions of power (a black doctor? Seems normal enough or should be normal enough now, but back then ... something Steve McQueen championed for as the director suggests).

Pacing is slow as any "real" life events would be. While there is not much violence, when it occurs it is quite explicit! No nudity, but quite some blood then. Just be aware if you are squeamish. Great movie and deservedly considered a classic
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"You work your side of the street, and I'll work mine."
classicsoncall29 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Bullitt" is arguably the defining moment of Steve McQueen's acting career, so it's hard to imagine that he actually had to be talked into doing it. The film was made at a time when cops were routinely referred to as 'pigs', and McQueen felt that his fans might turn on him for taking on such a role. However the actor decided to play the part against type, not as a clear cut cop, but as his own man with his own rules and sense of integrity. He also did a lot of it silently, using a face that revealed his emotions instead of wasting a lot of useless dialog.

As for the action scenes, macho man McQueen insisted on doing all the driving for the now famous car chase scene himself. However wiser heads at the studio weren't about to lose McQueen's star power due to an untimely accident, so for a particularly intense portion of the shooting, a stunt man was used on a day when McQueen overslept and didn't make it to the set on time. If you're watching the movie and can't see the driver, take note of the car's interior mirror. If it's visible in the scene, McQueen's doing the driving; if not, then it's stunt man Bud Eakins. (Source for the above is writer Marshall Terrill in his book "Steve McQueen").

What bothers me about the picture is the whole business with the surrogate Albert Rennick standing in for mobster Johnny Ross (Pat Renella) who's set to testify in front of a Senate committee against 'The Organization'. It doesn't make sense to me that Rennick would have willingly involved himself to stand in for a known gangster. There's also the convoluted involvement of the cab driver (Robert Duvall) taking note of the real Johnny Ross making calls from a phone booth. What would have made it so interesting that he would note that a lot of coins were used to make a long distance call? I guess I could re-watch the movie but I'm not so sure that would clear things up enough for me.

For me then, it's not so much the story as it is watching Steve McQueen go through his motions as the 'King of Cool'. He originally caught my eye when I was just a kid watching "Wanted: Dead or Alive" with my Dad, and ever since I've kept a sharp eye out for bounty hunter Josh Randall wherever he showed up. Trading in his horse for a Cobra Mustang in "Bullitt" was a cool way to go.
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Fantastic Cop Film
gavin694218 May 2013
An all guts, no glory San Francisco cop (Steve McQueen) becomes determined to find the underworld kingpin that killed the witness in his protection.

Could this film have the best car chase prior to the "French Connection"? I think it might. Sure, it involved splicing together many different city streets to make it look cool, but what city has better streets to splice than San Francisco? I do not know how much they have changed between then (1968) and now (2013), but the streets are as legendary as the Golden Gate Bridge.

The movie is known for its authenticity and use of real places in San Francisco for sets. I will give them credit for that. It is also known for its cars (a Mustang and Charger), which is somewhat ironic given that it is quite hard to figure out what sort of cars they are if you do not know (the emblems were removed).
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The car chase and turtlenecks show why Steve McQueen was so cool.
lee_eisenberg10 July 2005
When people think of "Bullitt", they mainly remember the car chase. Granted, it was quite a chase, but there was more to the movie than just that. Steve McQueen plays Frank Bullitt, a San Francisco cop whose coolness irks the other cops. After a witness is murdered, Bullitt has to investigate it.

Bullitt's turtleneck shirt and blazer almost stand out on their own, mainly as a contrast to the suits and ties worn by the other cops and the self-aggrandizing Sen. Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn). The car chase is mainly interesting because it's not just a series of explosions: the only explosion happens at the very end.

Some good supporting roles come from Jacqueline Bisset, Simon Oakland (best remembered as the psychiatrist in "Psycho"), Norman Fell, Robert Duvall and even a small role by Ed Peck (whom you may recognize as Officer Kirk from "Happy Days"). Overall, some parts may seem a bit dated, but it's a pretty good movie.
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jboothmillard14 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
From BAFTA nominated director Peter Yates (The Deep), I think I remember that we once had this film on DVD but I never gave it a proper chance, and I knew it was very popular, so given another opportunity I didn't miss it. Basically Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is the high profile San Francisco Police Lieutenant asked by ambitious politician Walter Chalmers (BAFTA nominated Robert Vaughn) to guard Johnny Ross (Felice Orlandi), a key witness in an upcoming court case against his Chicago based mobster brother Pete Ross (Victor Tayback). Alongside his colleague team of Sergeant Delgetti (Don Gordon) and Detective Carl Stanton (Carl Reindel), Bullitt has Ross in protective custody for 48 hours on the weekend before the trial where he will testify, and the Lieutenant has no questions asked during any decisions he makes. On Saturday night two hit men manage to break into the hotel room and shoot both the detectives and Ross, the cops are only wounded but Ross dies from his wounds, and naturally Chalmers is upset with the event. Bullitt decides to stop the news of Ross's death getting out to people the people that ordered the hit, asking the body to be a placed as John Doe in the morgue, and the chart to be misplaced by Dr. Willard (Georg Stanford Brown). Chalmers is then upset that Ross's body has disappeared, and he and his police minion Baker (Norman Fell) won't get any help from the Lieutenant who is trying to reconstruct the dead man;s movements and find out more about him. There is a point when Bullitt manages to spot the hit men who killed Ross, and the famous car chase against them in the Dodge Charger and him in the Ford Mustang ensues through the streets of San Francisco, and it ends with the two men crashing and blowing up. Back at police headquarters the Lieutenant is interrogated and told to follow up on his remaining lead Dorothy Simmons (Brandy Carroll), but she has been murdered, but then they find out she was actually Dorothy Rennick, and the man they thought was Johnny Ross was in fact her car salesman husband Albert who has no police record. Bullitt confirms this is true, and with the help of passport identity proves to Chalmers that he was protecting the wrong man, Rennick was set up so the real Ross could escape and Rennick's wife was murdered to silence her. Chalmers offers the Lieutenant the chance to further his career, he is refused, and the police detective manages to track the real Johnny Ross (Pat Renella) to San Francisco Airport, and in the end, after trying to reason with him, Bullitt kills him in the terminal. Also starring Jacqueline Bisset as Cathy, Robert Duvall as Weissberg and Simon Oakland as Captain Bennet. McQueen became a screen icon for this great gritty performance as the rebellious cop with deadpan expressions and all the right moves, and Vaughn is great support as the sleazy politician, obviously the best sequence is the simple but equally high octane car chase with hill bouncing, gun play and fantastic editing, but the rest of the film is filled with great exciting moments as well, an essential police procedural crime thriller. It won the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and it was nominated for Best Sound, and it was nominated the BAFTAs for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Track. Steve McQueen was number 14 on The 100 Greatest Movie Stars, he was number 49 on The 100 Greatest Sex Symbols, and he was number 43 on The World's Greatest Actor, and the film was number 36 on 100 Years, 100 Thrills. Very good!
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One of the all-time great and exciting police action thrillers
Woodyanders9 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Tough, laconic, no-nonsense Detective Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen in peak steely and assured form) clashes with sleazy, opportunistic politician Walter Chalmers (superbly played to smarmy, smooth-talking perfection by Robert Vaughn) over the investigation of the shooting of the star witness in an upcoming mob trial. Director Peter Yates, working from a tight and terse script by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner, relates the gripping plot at a steady pace, places a welcome emphasis on stark realism, makes excellent use of the sunny San Francisco locations to further enhance said authenticity, and stages the rousing action set pieces with considerable skill and brio (besides the now legendary amazing and exhilarating protracted car chase, there's also an equally stirring foot chase in a hospital and a heart-pounding climactic shoot-out on an airport runway). McQueen excels in his impressively stoic, reserved, and completely lived-in portrayal of the weary, yet shrewd and diligent Bullitt, who's an honest man struggling to keep his integrity and humanity despite his grim and thankless job. The supporting cast is likewise exceptional: Don Gordon as Bullitt's equally hard-nosed partner Delgetti, Jacqueline Bisset as Bullitt's classy, concerned girlfriend Cathy, Simon Oakland as the stern, but supportive Captain Bennet, and Georg Stanford Brown as the helpful Dr. Willard. Popping up in nifty small parts are Robert Duvall as cab driver Weissberg, Vic Tayback as hoodlum Pete Ross, and Just Tarr as slick informant Eddy. The investigation is shown with compellingly meticulous thoroughness and total plausibility. Better still, there's no silly humor or needless flashy razzle-dazzle to distract from the overall credibility of the plot and characters; the whole picture is done with admirable seriousness and a praiseworthy sense of consummate professionalism. Lalo Schifrin's groovy, jazzy, syncopated score ably pumps up the suspense without ever become distracting or excessive. William A. Fraker's gleaming, polished cinematography boasts a pretty bright look and several nice gliding pans. Essential viewing.
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McQueen In The Driver's Seat
ccthemovieman-120 April 2006
Steve McQueen was usually worth watching no matter what he was in, although he did a few stinkers like everyone else. This is not one of them; he's excellent here as an intense but low-key cop. It's a pretty solid police thriller which features a famous car-chase scene that supposedly set the standard (or maybe it did at the time of release.)

What's interesting to note, according to a documentary on the DVD, is that McQueen did his own driving! No stuntman for him, even at 110 miles per hour through the streets. Speaking of streets, San Francisco always makes for an interesting local.

Robert Vaughn, Don Gordon, Jacqueline Bissett, Simon Oakland and Robert Duvall complete the big-name cast, but this is McQueen's movie all the way.....and, for a film almost 40 years old, it's not very dated.
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Sui generis
rmax3048239 November 2002
I don't know how this film can be criticized as "dated," except in the most superficial sense of the word. It stands by itself. There hasn't been another movie quite like it, before or since. Essentially a straightforward tale of a policeman unraveling a gangster plot, it alternates between trouvée scenes that look and sound as unrehearsed as real life, and spectacular moments involving chases and shootings.

It's still a highly stylized film of course. Every shot change but one is a cut, not a fade or dissolve. Most people speak more lines when found in Steve McQueen's circumstances, or so I would think. Most men don't come home to find Jackie Bissett asleep in their beds, a pity.

There has probably never been a pursuit like that filmed in the hills of Colma, which is known locally as "the city that waits for the city that waits to die, to die." I once saw a high-speed pursuit in the streets of Philadelphia and was amazed at how slowly and carefully both the police and their quarry were driving -- slowing down for stop signs and all that.

When the broth is reduced, the plot isn't unlike many John Wayne movies. He's a loner, dedicated to his job, living an otherwise uneventful life in a modest apartment, except for one thing, Jacqueline Bissett. His other contacts are distant or perfunctory. His relationship with partner Don Gordon is defined in the first few minutes as strictly professional, nothing more. He's respected but not loved until Bissett appears in his life. How did he get that way? Who knows? Who CARES, really? A person's development can't be explained in a few minutes of screen time, even if we knew what caused it, without recourse to revelations that have always been clichés -- he had zits during adolescence, or they took away his sled when he was just a kid. Not even cheap shots at sympathy mongering -- he lost his wife recently -- are brought in. Bissett is important to the plot because she represents the possibility of his returning to the human race as a person capable of warm and deeply emotional relationships, however clumsy his expressions of warmth may still be.

The conflict between McQueen and Bissett involves her inability to accept the gruesome aspects of the life he leads, a common device. (See John Wayne and Patricia Neal in "Operation Pacific," or Al Pacino and Diane Venora in "Heat".) Bissett finally yields and accepts the conditions. Any other ending would have been pretty bleak (she leaves him and he becomes even more bitter and lonely as he ages) or unbelievable (he resigns from the SFPD and becomes a Zen Buddhist monk). Superficially it seems that McQueen has "won" the contest, but actually it is Bissett who comes out as the more admirable, flexible, capable of changing and adapting, open to further development in her interests.

And as far as that goes, the movie ends ambiguously. Bissett has come back to him, but as McQueen puts his gun aside and washes his face in the bathroom he looks up and stares in the mirror, expressionless. If he doesn't change, the relationship with Bissett is in jeopardy. She will continue to embrace life (I'm glad I don't have to try defining a term like that) while leaving him behind.

The movie was released in 1968, probably shot in 1967, the height of Haight-Ashbury and the flower power movement. If this movie were as dated as some people think, the writers and Yates would have worked in a bunch of timely but far from timeless hippies and their lore. The temptation must have been there but was successfully resisted. The city is used iconically and without touristy shots. Nothing has dated, except that Enrico's is now closed. McQueen unholsters his pistol only once, and fires only two shots. If it were done today, can you imagine the final shootout without the hero and villain using two Uzis each and puncturing every wall, shattering every mirror, and exploding every squib in sight?

The car chase now looks familiar, of course, because it has been imitated a hundred times since "Bullitt" appeared. Around the time of "The Seven Ups," they got tired of just using cars and worked in elevated subway trains, garbage trucks, buses, motorcycles, and so on. The imitations now seem dated in a way this movie simply does not. Whatever happened to our sense of historical depth? This was a breakthrough film and it remains one.

Final note: Watch the crane shot near the end as the 707 is recalled to its perch at the terminal. The camera glides down and allows the nose of the airplane to fill the screen, jigging slowly on its springs, its windshields like eyes, its bulbous black radar dome like the nose on the face of a clown, a hideous and frightening clown. It's a magnificent shot.
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A '60s cop classic
Tweekums25 June 2018
This classic '60s cop film is set in San Francisco where Lt Frank Bullitt has been asked to guard Johnny Ross. Ross was previously in 'The Organisation' in Chicago but is now planning to give evidence to a senate committee. Things go wrong very quickly; a hitman strikes leaving Ross and a policeman critically injured. Walter Chalmers, the ambitious local politician who saw the committee meeting as a way to launch himself of a national stage is furious that his key witness may be unavailable, makes it clear that Bullitt will take the fall if Ross doesn't testify. Bullitt sets about trying to find those behind the attack.

'Bullitt' is best remembered for the iconic car chase through the streets of San Francisco... it wasn't the first film to feature a car chase but for a while afterwards it seemed that every cop film had to include a chase scene... and this one remains one of the best with Bullitt's Ford Mustang growling as he pursues the villains Dodge Charger. The film may be known for that one scene but it is just a small part of a fine film. It may not be as action packed as films made these days but the details feel real which keep it gripping. Steve McQueen is on top form as Frank Bullitt and Robert Vaughn is solid as Chalmers. When we learn the identity of the person behind the attack it proved to be quite a surprise... all I'll say about it is; I didn't see it coming until just before the big reveal... by which time we'd been shown plenty of clues. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the genre; it is still fresh fifty years on.
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Nice detective story makes great use of San Francisco streets and features one of star Steve McQueen's best screen performances
ma-cortes28 September 2014
Thrilling and suspenseful film that has one of the best chases in cinema history . Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen who based his character on San Francisco Homicide Inspector Dave Toschi, made famous for his work on the Zodiac killings) is an antihero police detective , he is an instinctive cop with his own methods operating in San Francisco . Frank is an individualistic man and uses questionable methods similarly to "Harry Callahan" Clint Eastwood , as a type renegade cop who smells a rat when his efforts to guard a key person are suspiciously thwarted . A politician (Robert Vaughn , he has repeatedly said that his performance in this film is his best and contains the work he is most proud of) commissions him to protect a fugitive pursued by the Chicago Crime Syndicate . Bullitt senses some strange behind assignment to guard criminal witness . However , Frank can not avoid being killed . Along the way Frank and helper (Don Gordon) find corruption , violence , killings , car pursuits and many other things until find out the key of the mystery.

Taut police/action/drama film that over time has become a cult movie . The plot is simple but very well paced , though sometimes results to be slow moving and a bit dated now . A simple script is added all the ingredients of the genre : tough , two-fisted cop , politicized fiscal , twisted intrigue , troublesome girlfriend and a lot of murders . Exciting action scenes , especially in now-classic car pursuit , it lasts 10 minutes and 53 seconds, one of the screen's all-time best , being still a corker , including academy Award winning editing by Frank Keller. Traditionally, car chases are filmed by second units but Peter Yates insisted on doing it himself , this was partly because he knew that Steve McQueen would be performing a lot of the stunts himself . Bullit (1968) enjoyed a freedom of movement around the city that would be hard to come by today, including giving up an entire hospital wing for filming, closing down multiple streets for three weeks for a car chase scene and taking over San Francisco International Airport at night. Steve McQueen gives a very good as well as definitive interpretation as Frank Bullit and the film has good pace. He did his own stunts , in fact Steve McQueen made a point to keep his head near the open car window during the famous chase scene so that audiences would be reassured that it was he, not a stunt man, who was driving . Steve McQueen was very keen to do as many of his own stunts as possible. He had been hugely embarrassed to admit that it was not him performing the celebrated motorbike stunt in The great escape (1963). There is a good secondary gallery such as Norman Fell, Jacqueline Bissett , Robert Duvall , Robert Vaughn and Simon Oakland . Atmospheric cinematography by William A Fraker is accompanied by a marvelous jazzy soundtrack by Lalo Schiffrin.

This entertaining film was well directed by Peter Yates, appointing the accent on twisted intrigue and noisy action and being the first film produced under Steve McQueen's production company, Solar. Director Peter Yates was personally selected for this movie by Steve McQueen because Yates had filmed a realistic car chase a year earlier through the streets of London in Robbery (1967). Peter was a good craftsman , being mostly known for ¨Bullit¨ , the success of this venture prompted Yates to remain in America, adapting himself to a variety of other genres, though continuing to be preoccupied with action subjects . Never a prolific director, Yates subsequently made only a few more films . His best films include the stylish and ingenious caper comedy Hot Rock (1972); the underwater adventure Deep (1977), based on the novel and screenplay by Peter Benchley; and the quirky coming-of-age comedy Breaking away (1979). For the latter, Yates received simultaneous Oscar nominations as Best Director and Best Producer and the enjoyably old-fashioned comedy Curtain call (1998), starring Michael Caine and Maggie Smith as a couple of theatrical ghosts. He was nominated again for a more cerebral 'actor's piece', The dresser (1983), starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay , based on a play about an ageing stage actor and his long-standing assistant. It was followed by a flop titled Eleni (1985) with John Malkovich . Most memorable, perhaps, were the courtroom thriller Suspect (1987), the political drama House de Carroll Street (1988) .
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You cannot argue its sleekness and style...but the film is so laconic it is muted
moonspinner5513 June 2010
Robert L. Pike's book "Mute Witness" becomes snazzy-looking crime drama propelled by chases, screeching tires, the hilly streets of San Francisco and, of course, Steve McQueen as a police detective so inherently cool he doesn't need to do much but walk (and drive) in front of the camera (it's not exactly acting, per se, but McQueen does cut an undeniable presence). The plot is utterly routine: McQueen's Lt. Frank Bullitt is assigned to keep watch over a witness on the take from Chicago mobsters, who winds up dead; Bullitt feels he's being duped by the crooked police force and a dirty US Senator. The famous car chase midway through is astonishingly well-edited and photographed, and Steve is moody and quiet in a forceful way, but the airport showdown takes its time. Director Peter Yates gets awfully introspective at key moments--and when he does, the picture practically goes mute (his star is low-keyed and laconic as it is). "Bullitt" shows off a sleek style that turns audiences on, yet it's a workmanlike exercise most of the way, leading to a curiously thoughtful tag. **1/2 from ****
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Steel true
blanche-230 September 2015
Steve McQueen stars in "Bullitt," from 1968, directed by Peter Yates. This was at the peak of McQueen's career; sadly, he would be dead just 12 years later.

This film has an interesting history. It is based on a book where the detective never solves a case and eats ice cream. Originally the property was for Spencer Tracy; after his death, it went to McQueen. McQueen based his character on the detective who solved the Zodiac murders.

Bullitt (McQueen) is given the assignment to guard an important witness, but the witness is shot and later dies. He makes the powers that be believe that the man is still alive, while he searches for the killer.

We see very soon that Bullitt is one determined guy, perhaps like Dirty Harry, only this guy doesn't talk much. He pays no attention to his superiors or a politician (Robert Vaughan) who needs the witness in court the next day.

Strong and silent, this role fits Steve McQueen's persona to a T. With very little dialogue, he manages to convey his determination and resolve.

The top moment is the unbelievable car chase, with McQueen apparently doing most of his own driving. His wife at that time was so upset that she asked the director to use a stunt man. When McQueen came to work and saw the stunt man in his car, he was livid. When driving, McQueen kept his face close to the window so the audience could see his was driving.

The film is low on violence, and it also feels European, I suppose because of the director. It moves a little slowly especially by today's standards.

The airplane scenes are a reminder of how big the seats used to be and how different flying was back then.

One of the best parts for me was seeing McQueen in the turtleneck and jacket, which was all the rage back in the '60s and early '70s. One day, my roommate and I were talking about a guy who dressed like that, saying how great he always looked. There was a friend of ours, a man, with us.

The next day he showed up in a turtleneck and jacket and we had to bite our lips. Guess we were more influential than we thought. Not as influential as Steve McQueen, though. You can still see bits of his acting in some actors today. He worked hard, left a great legacy, and he underwent experimental treatment for mesothelioma so he wanted to live for his children.

The great cast includes Simon Oakland, Norman Fell, Jacqueline Bisset, Don Gordon, and Robert Duvall.
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Best Film Editing?
JohnHowardReid17 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
What should have been – and often is – a good action thriller, is somewhat vitiated by a script that is meandering, muddled and confused. It wasn't until I read the synopsis that I found out who the Robert Vaughn character was supposed to be. And what place Jacqueline Bissett has in the film (save to introduce periodic doses of phony philosophy) is as mysterious as the opening credits. Generally speaking, the acting of all concerned is no more than competent. If anything, Steve McQueen is even more surly than usual. The movie's chief assets are William Fraker's fine color photography, some terrific action scenes, and the director's extensive use of intriguing San Francisco locations. To my surprise, the film's editor, Frank P. Keller, won an Academy Award for his work on this film. This was obviously no fluke, because Keller also received the annual award for Best Editing from his peers in the American Cinema Editors. When I get an opportunity, this is a movie I want to see again!
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Bullitt- A Shot in the Total Dark? *1/2
edwagreen27 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
With all due respect to Robert Vaughn, his greatest performance was in "The Young Philadelphians" in 1959. He got a well-deserved best supporting actor nomination for it.

While he plays a sarcastic, sinister character in "Bullitt," the latter picture is far inferior to much of his screen work.

The film never bothers to explain the role of the organization. Are we dealing with the underworld or what? Vaughn's role is a complete enigma as is the rest of the picture.

While there is a wonderful chase scene and an exciting ending at the San Francisco airport, the picture is one of total confusion. Jacqueline Bisset is totally wasted in her role as McQueen's girl.
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Prototype and role model for a whole decade of Poliziotesschi favorites!
Coventry30 August 2018
Admittedly, I'm doing this in the wrongful and reversed order. For years already, I've been watching and reviewing Italian cop thrillers (the so-called "Poliziotesschi"), and only now I'm commenting on the classics that directly influenced the birth of this fabulous sub-genre. My heart belongs to the Italian Poliziotesschi, with all the "Roma Violenta" or "Napoli Spara" thrillers directed by Umberto Lenzi and starring Maurizio Merli, but I'm also realistic enough to reckon that these movies never even would have existed if it weren't for a handful of Hollywood milestones such as "Dirty Harry", "The French Connection" and this "Bullitt". Perhaps even more than the other titles, "Bullitt" is THE prototypic tough cop thriller, and Steve McQueen was the role model for all future streetwise police detectives that disobey their superiors and revert to unorthodox methods to bring justice. "Bullitt" is an incredibly simple and straightforward movie, but that's probably what makes it so great as well. The titular hero, first name Frank, is a good detective and an amiable human being. He respects his colleagues and treats the people that are part of his investigation with respect, whereas he ignores the supposedly prominent authority figures that put pressure on him. Bullitt and his partner are assigned to protect a key witness who fled from Chicago to San Francisco to testify in a trial against the mafia. The witness dies in the hospital, following a professional hit that also cost the life of Bullitt's partner, but nothing is what it seems, and our hero decides to "confiscate" the corpse until he finds out who really was the man he needed to protect. The car chase is iconic and imitated numerous times, but honestly, it's far from being the greatest I've ever seen. The San Francisco setting, with its uphill and downhill lanes and streetcars, makes it more spectacular, but the Italian car chases of the 70s are far more virulent and guerilla-styled. However, this was one of the first car chases, as there are a lot of "firsts" in this landmark film.
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Looking for vengeance on the streets of San Francisco.
michaelRokeefe25 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Lt. Frank Bullitt(Steve McQueen)is assigned to protect an organized crime informant Johnny Ross(Pat Renella). Bullitt is not known for conducting his business with kid gloves; let alone going by-the-book. Ross is scheduled to testify against his mob cronies before a Senate subcommittee in San Francisco. A high profile politician Walter Chalmers(Robert Vaughn)has his own devious self-serving reasons why Ross must testify. A pair of Chicago hit men find the supposed safe location and snuff out the witness. Chalmers, with all his influence, tries to come down hard on Bullitt, who won't be hindered in his quest for vengeance.

Violence is par for the times. Plenty of suspenseful cat-and-mouse and a legendary car chase sequence. Supporting cast is full of stars; some have yet met the peak of their stardom: Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall, Simon Oakland, Norman Fell, Don Gordon, Vic Tayack and Georg Stanford Brown.
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Projecting a Presence
dougdoepke2 June 2013
No need to recap the plot.

What can you say after so many positive reviews. Mc Queen doesn't so much act as he projects a strong presence. That was the way of a lot of Hollywood stars who depended more on projecting a presence than running a gamut of emotions. Actually, Mc Queen deadpans his way through the whole 90-minutes, neither smiling nor changing expression. Still, you can't take your eyes off him. Of course, his character is intended to be unfeeling, which is why his girl friend (Bissett) complains. And when he peers into the mirror at movie's end, he's trying to penetrate his own feelings, which have been long suppressed. Thus what has made him such a good cop, has also cost him an inner life. It's a fascinating portrait.

Salutes should also go to director Yates who manages to make almost every scene visually interesting, even when not much is happening. Also, Robert Vaughan is excellent as the slimy politico, Bullitt's arch-nemesis. Then too, McQueen manages a plum supporting role for his real life buddy Don Gordon (cop Delgetti). I guess my only complaint is the various twists in the narrative that are sometimes hard to follow. Anyway, the movie's deserving of its rich reputation, along with the two classic action sequences that alone are worth the price of admission.
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