Mrs. Melobi and I watched Bullitt last night. What a mistake! Apparently, it’s some sort of classic “cop thriller,” but it’s all cop and no thrill. Steve McQueen spends the majority of the movie trying to look contemplative moody, but mostly looks sheepish and bewildered. He’s supposed to be the “original no-rules cop” and the “epitome of cool” and the bearer of other, equally hyperbolic titles, but I don’t see how anyone – even someone of the era – could have thought so. He doesn’t come up with a single good plan or even a good line in the whole film. The much-ballyhooed car chase scene is mildly entertaining, but plays out more like an afternoon road rage incident than spicy police car chase. Additionally, there’s no sense of place; the movie is set in 1968 San Francisco, but there’s no feeling of being anywhere, or in any time. There’s no Vietnam War references, no hippies, no protesters, no racial tension – it’s all very disconnected. As one IMDB commenter wrote, if it weren’t for the hills, it could’ve been shot in 1974 in Omaha.
Dirty Harry (just three years later) is a much better “bad cop” movie, and later movies like Heat show much more powerfully the tensions that a working police officer undergoes. Bullitt is a dog and should be avoided at all costs.