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Busting

****
1974

‘…in portraying life as a steaming cess-pit of prostitution, homophobia and general degradation, Busting lays the old, familiar story out in no short order…’

Peter Hyams is a writer/director with quite a body of big-budget studio work behind him, from Capricorn One to Outland; a hit tv movie sent him on a six month research spree at the LAPD and led to his writing and directing this early work, a strikingly small-scale and down-at-heel view of police-work that has a certain verboten sizzle viewed from a distance in 2021.

Elliott Gould, sporting a handlebar moustache, and Robert Blake are the cops who shake-down various low-lives on their way to confrontation with gangster Rizzi (Allen Garfield); this is the early 70’s, so we’re well aware that risking life and limb for a humble $200 a week is an absurd proposition. There’s also a gallery of low-lifes, portrayed without much PC thought or sensitivity; if you want hand-wringing liberal angst about the direction of society, you’d be best to direct your search for entertainment elsewhere.

An early scene in which the cops relish the beating up of various men in a gay bar sets the unpleasant tone, but that scabrous feel is very much what Busting is about; post MASH and throughout the 70’s, there was a general enthusiasm for depicting the moral confusion and general squalor of life, and the nihilistic workings of the hard-bitten police force made an ideal cross-section in films like Fuzz or The Choirboys.

Hyams supercharges his story with solid freeway action and a couple of stunning foot-chases, one leading into a brutal market gunfight, and the leads are just right for the abrasive feel. Busting was the kind of US import the BBC used to cheerfully show to an audience of millions on a Sunday evening; in portraying life as a steaming cess-pit of prostitution, homophobia and general degradation, Busting lays the old, familiar story out in no short order before television, and Starsky and Hutch in particular, could sanitize it for resale.

 

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  1. This really rocked back in the day as I remember. Gould and Blake were an ideal team, especially given Gould’s laid-back coked-out persona of the time and these was less do-gooding than The French Connection and less star-driven than Fuzz and more along the lines of The Choirboys. It had its own wild mojo and the ambulance chase was something else plus Allen Garfield specialized in these kind of sleazy roles.

  2. Who doesn’t love a good steaming cess pit? I seem to remember not that long ago we were talking about the wonders of technology and septic systems!

    But even still, I think I too shall pass on this…..

      • If I was wider awake I’d have a clever comeback. But it’s the start of a 3day weekend, so I slept in until 5:30am.
        Does that sound like the lifestyle of a lightweight? I think not!

        • I retract my comment. If you have three days in your weekend, how many does your whole week have? In the circumstances, I’ll focus on my own steaming cess-pit….

          • Some weeks feel like they are 10 days long (the last 2 have been like that) and sometimes it feels like 2 or 3 days.
            The only constant is that the weekends, no matter how long they actually are, are never long enough.

            If your cesspit is steaming, you might want to think about adding more quicklime. Throw in an orange or two, some other tropical fruits and before you know it, you can have a very natural and earthy drink, just bubbling away….

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