"Bullitt", directed by Peter Yates, went on to influence a whole generation of action oriented police dramas.
The film stars Steve McQueen as Detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. He is assigned to protect a key witness in a Mafia trial. Unfortunately this simple assignment goes horribly wrong. After his friend is gunned down and the witness is left at death's door, Bullitt decides to do some investigating of his own. This brings him into conflict with Chalmers, a corrupt and ambitious politician.
The film has come to be seen as iconic, even seminal, for good reason. Peter Yates' taut, realistic direction encapsulates the prevailing cinematic brand of late 1960s cool. San Francisco, filmed in glittering sunshine, has never looked so good. Lalo Schifrin's score, used sparingly, is a perfect backdrop for the film's mood of urban chic.
McQueen has never been better. His 'cop against the system' character is hardly original, but his laconic, feline presence invests the role with iconic power. He is ably opposed by Robert Vaughan as the corrupt, smarmy Chalmers.
The film's crowning moment, and most famous sequence, is its car chase. Technical advances allowed the action to be filmed as it happened. The cars hurtle round the hills and sweeping curves of San Francisco at speeds approaching 150 miles an hour. Nothing like it had been seen at the time, and it has lost none of its visual intensity. The knowledge that McQueen did much of his own driving serves to enhance the impact.
McQueen's screen presence and the hyper-realistic direction mask a plot which is, unfortunately, rather thin. After the chase, the film trails off into a satisfactory but undistinguished ending.
If more attention had been paid to plot and characterisation, this would have been a great rather than a good movie. Even so, it stands as a cinematic landmark. Without it there may well have been no "Dirty Harry" or "The French Connection".