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Peter Hyam's 1974 cop film Busting follows two officers of the L.A.P.D.'s vice squad: Mike Keneely (Elliot Gould) and Patrick Ferrel (Robert Blake). The film introduces us to them just as they're about to bust a gorgeous high class hooker named Jackie (Cornelia Sharpe). The bring her in but she's sprung on bail the next day, apparently the ‘trick book' that the two cops brought in went missing and the case was kicked out of court. More likely, however, a local ‘businessman' named Rizzo (Allen Garfield) pulled a few strings at headquarters and got her off without any hassle.
Back on the beat, the guys decide to go investigate some seedy activity at a local gay bar where a flamboyant queen (Antonio Fargas) tries to cut in when Mike and Patrick start dancing under the guise of not blowing their cover. When Mike refuses, a fight breaks out and he gets bit on the leg. Eventually their commanding officer, Sergeant Kenefick (John Lawrence), assigns them to stake out a men's room in the park that's apparently a popular cruising joint, but they're not taking this whole Rizzo thing lightly. Knowing that he's up to know good they start nosing around and figure out, after making a bust at a porno shop offering backroom handjobs (courtesy of Erin O'Reilly!), that he's involved in narcotics distribution. When they start making trouble for Rizzo by causing a scene at the strip club he owns and by following him around town, things get violent. Kenefick decides to split up the two best cops the vice squad has, but these two aren't taking no for an answer and are going to bring Rizzo in no matter what it might cost them.
Shot on location at and around some remarkably sleazy looking Los Angeles locations, Busting has got loads of cool seventies atmosphere and style, from the wardrobe to the cars to Gould's massive moustache to the score, this one just couldn't and wouldn't be made today. Showing no regard whatsoever for political correctness (gay men are referred to as ‘fags' and ‘fruits' more than once) the movie was very definitely a product of its time, but that never takes away from its entertainment value. Front and center in all of this are Gould and Blake, who make a pretty great pair here. Gould's Keneely is a hot head, prone to solving problems with his fists, shooting his mouth off and getting himself into trouble while Blake's Ferrel is the more reserved of the pair, letting his partner do his thing but always prepared to back him up when the time comes. The fact that they play fast and loose with the rule book doesn't seem to bother them, even if it comes back to bite them more than once. The two leading men suit their roles just fine, with Gould's knack for snappy dialogue helping quite a bit. The other main player here, John Garfield as Rizzo, is also good in his part and it's interesting to see him balance his characters sleazy business dealings with his façade of legitimacy and family values (at one point our cop heroes follow him into church). Throw in an interesting cast of supporting players, including Antonio Fargas as a gay bar patron with a mean streak, Frank Farmer and Sid Haig as Rizzo's bodyguards and Erin O'Reilly (of The Baby!) and Cornelia Sharpe as hookers and you wind up with a pretty solid group of bit part players to back up the principals.,/p>
The film is very effectively shot, using some ominous red lighting in the gay bar scene to foreshadow the violence to come and employing some great POV shots in the requisite car chase scene that takes place in the finale. The filmmakers go for a more natural lighting style here, grounding the film in reality and eschewing the rapid fire editing popular in a lot of modern action movies in favor of a more calculated and deliberate approach. It might not have had quite the amount of substance, influence or cultural impact of similar films like The French Connection or Dirty Harry and quite frankly it isn't as good as either one of those but it's a very entertaining and occasionally sleazy film that fans of seventies cop films should really enjoy.The Blu-ray:
Kino's AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.85.1 widescreen transfer of Busting offers a very nice upgrade over the previous MOD/DVD-R release that came out as part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection a couple of years ago. The transfer has very nice color reproduction and is frequently quite impressive with its detail. At the same time, the image retains an appropriately gritty, grainy feel to it that works really well in the context of the story. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and black levels are fine. There's virtually no print damage here to note and aside from some minor compression artifacts that do pop up in some of the night scenes, things look really solid on this disc. At the same time, the transfer appears to mimic their release from a few years back and while it does look decent, you have to wonder how much better it could look with a new scan.Sound:
The English soundtrack, presented in 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono format, is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion. The musical bits sound very good here and pack some welcome punch, while dialogue stays well balanced and easy to follow. There's good depth here and the sound effects have good weight behind them. Again, this is an improvement over the previous release.Extras:
Kino have included two commentary tracks on this disc, the first with director Peter Hyams, a scene specific talk that starts off with the man talking about how he wanted to make a cop movie that was different than other cop movies. He also notes that every single incident in the movie actually happened. From there he talks about his research, his writing process, what it was like casting the film and the locations used. Hyams was young when he shot this, only twenty-nine, and he talks about being a less experienced filmmaker working alongside more experienced guys like Gould and Blake. He addresses the ‘gay' scene in the movie, the difficulties involved in getting a good red down on film, staging some of the action scenes and quite a bit more. There are moments where Hyams goes quiet a little longer than you'd probably want him to but thankfully for the most part this is pretty well paced and pretty informative too.
The second commentary doesn't cover the entire movie but instead covers select scenes and it offers input from Elliott Gould and film critic Kim Morgan. They cover just over forty-six minutes of footage here, and Gould talks about some of the actors and actresses he worked with on the film, his moustache in the film, the sex scene that takes place in the dentist's office, the film's producers, working with Blake and with Hyams, the sense of humor in the film, Antonio Vargas' role and quite a bit more. This is also worth listening to. Gould has a pretty sharp memory and Morgan keeps him talking at a good pace, there are a lot of good stories here.
Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for Running Scared and The Long Goodbye, static menu with chapter stops. A slipcover is also included.Final Thoughts:
Fast paced and wickedly entertaining, Busting is everything a good seventies cop film should be: tense, violent, stylish, exciting and just a whole lot of fun to watch. Kino's Blu-ray release offers a very nice upgrade over the previous MOD/DVD-R release that MGM put out back in 2012 while still leaving some room for improvement. Recommended, but if you've already got the earlier Blu-ray release, the only addition to this reissue is a slipcover.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.