Busting ★★★½

Anybody wanna bet Shane Black has a framed poster of Busting hanging somewhere in his mansion? 

Is this the first buddy cop movie?  I'm not sure, but it at least establishes what would soon become a tired formula: crime boss operating shamelessly while corrupt authorities either look the other way or intercede to protect him; buddy cops ignore orders to let the matter go, then work tirelessly outside the system to take him down.

Even though I've seen this plotline many times it still feels somewhat fresh and certainly more authentic here, due to the relentlessly cynical tone (there is a lot of smart-assery -- it's Elliott Gould in his prime, after all -- but it's never jokey) and commitment to gritty realism (half the movie seems to take place within gloomy cinder block interiors often scrawled with graffiti, and the violence is more brutal than you might expect).

The staging of the action sequences is quite good, particularly a foot chase through a building that leads into a tense shootout in a grocery store packed with patrons. Cinematographer Earl Rath pulls off some sensationally fast-moving reverse tracking shots here that really juice the intensity level. The lighting choices stand out as well, particularly some monochromatic shots that would feel at home in the panels of the comic books the Gould character favors.

Unsurprisingly, Gould provides much of the comic relief (while looking almost Zappa-esque) but Blake is no slouch, either. His more sedate, deadpan presence is a good complement for Gould's slightly showier performance.  But these are The Vice Guys, after all, and a lot of the first act feels like punching down. (At least when Gould busts a hooker he says he's sorry, and he doesn't sleep with her first, like Joe Don Baker does in Mitchell.)  The movie gets more lively once the pair focus their energies on aggressively fucking with drug lord Rizzo (a terriffically smug Allen Garfield) and his chief henchman (Sid Haig).  

Extra 1/2 star for the requisite '70s bummer ending.

Block or Report

Sonny_Jim liked these reviews