Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Released the same year that FREEBIE AND THE BEAN became Warner Brothers’ top grosser of 1974, BUSTING helped pioneer the raucous “buddy cop” genre that combined ribald humor with bloody violence (BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and the I SPY television series were also antecedents). Like FREEBIE, the feature directorial debut of writer Peter Hyams (2010) features two headstrong, foul-mouthed police detectives butting their heads against the System while breaking as many rules and destroying as much private and public property as possible.

Elliott Gould, fresh off THE LONG GOODBYE, in which he played a more laidback detective, plays Keneely, and Robert Blake (in a part originally intended for SUPER COP Ron Leibman), who played a motorcycle cop in ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE, plays Farrel. The unkempt, authority-challenging plainclothes vice cops aren’t good at taking no for an answer as they set their sights on a drug-dealing pornographer played by Allen Garfield (THE CONVERSATION).

After high-placed figures in the Los Angeles police department force Keneely to lie on the witness stand to keep a gorgeous call girl (Cornelia Sharpe) out of jail, he and Farrel are punished for their insolence by getting assigned to stake out a park restroom for perverts. Frustrated by the obstacles standing between them and doing the job they were hired to do, the dicks use their free time after hours to nail Garfield -- a tough chore for cops who spend as much time dodging departmental incompetence and backstabbing as they do bullets and beatings from the bad guys.

The best buddy movies feature impeccable chemistry between their stars, and BUSTING is no exception. Though Hyams receives screenplay credit, much of Gould and Blake’s dialogue is improvised and often very funny. As a director, Hyams developed a knack for flashy, exciting if not necessarily logical action sequences, and the seeds of that skill are on display in BUSTING. The film’s highlight -- a late-night foot chase and shootout through downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market -- is a cacophony of violence, screams, innocent bystanders, and squibbed vegetables blasting in the air. Hyams films much of the scene in long takes, which adds realism and tension. His reliance on long dolly shots becomes repetitive eventually, but the Grand Central Market setpiece is superb.

A boisterous bouillabaisse of wild action, irreverence, and profanity (ensuring no studio will be mounting a faithful remake of BUSTING anytime soon), Hyams’ film is one of the 1970s’ most entertaining crime dramas. Strangely, Hyams followed this violent thriller with OUR TIME, a teen love story, but by the end of the decade had found his niche in fast-moving actioners like CAPRICORN ONE and THE STAR CHAMBER.

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