Saturday, June 15, 2024

Busting (1974) A Visually Stunning but controversial Buddy Cop "B" Noir


"A Bemused, Self-conscious and Dated Encapsulation of a Now Diluted Genre, and Entertaining Therefore"(jzappa 18 February 2011 IMDb)

Written and Directed by Peter Hyams (Outland, Timecop). 

The excellent Cinematography was by Earl Rath (Peeper). Music was by Billy Goldenberg.

The film stars Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye, M.A.S.H., California Split, The Silent Partner, Bugsy ) as Det. Michael Keneely, Robert Blake (The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, In Cold Blood, Electra Glide in Blue, Lost Highway) as Det. Patrick Farrell, Allen Garfield (Cry Uncle!) as Carl Rizzo, Antonio Fargas as Stephen, Michael Lerner as Marvin, Cornelia Sharpe as call girl Jackie Faraday.

Elliott Gould as Detective Michael Keneely

Robert Blake as Detective Patrick Farrell

Alan Garfield as Carl Rizzo

This is a pretty simple straightforward storyline supported by some great cinematography. Keneely and Farrell are two LAPD vice squad cops. They gel, they get the job done. Buddy cops they seem to have fun doing what they do.

Busting a call girl and client

Cornelia Sharpe as call girl Jackie Faraday

Jackie at the dentist office

Paying cash for gash

Jackie disrobing for her exam

Jackie about to get a cavity filled

Jackie getting that cavity filled

Keneely and Farrell on the job


Most of there work though is for naught. The hookers they bust are let out immediately the next day, protected and supported by a crime organization run by Carl Rizzo. 

Jackie getting busted

Jackie told to get dressed she's going downtown

Back at the Police Station Keneely and Farrell fill out their reports. 

But they get raked over the coals by the Chief of Detectives who tells them that the word came down from the top to lay off Rizzo's operations.

Like clockwork Rizzo's lawyer show up and with misplaced evidence the city has no case and Jackie goes free while the judge admonishes Keneely for loosing evidence.

Jackie in court

Case dismissed

Rizzo's even got cops on the take who loose, misplace, or alter evidence making bringing cases to trial extremely difficult. Keneely and Farrel are reassigned to staking out gay bars and public toilets as a punishment.

Busting a gay bar

Busting a massage parlor

Frustrated Keneely and Farrell eventually confronts Rizzo on their own initiative. Both Keneely and Farrel are eventually jumped by Rizzo's henchmen and given a good beating. 

Later for revenge they begin to harass Rizzo's businesses, scaring away customers, and tailing Rizzo and his family around town. 

It all goes Noirsville when Rizzo has a heart attack and is sent to the hospital.  


This film just looks great. Here is an example of a Noir where a films Visual style is so good that it would overcome any faults in both story and acting, if there were any. Its just your old time "B" noir type of story with a sort of twist ending.

Everybody who loved Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye is going to love this. He is almost playing the same character. He's, in a way, sort of like John Wayne always playing John Wayne with just different names. In The Long Goodbye he's playing a modern version of Phillip Marlowe putting an Elliot Gould spin on him. Here the same persona just has a different name Michael Keneely. Robert Blake is definitely playing more of a second banana role to Gould. 

It was a controversial film at the time of it's release, society had already progressed already by then into a totally different zeitgeist. The Sexual Revolution was in full swing. This ain't the 50's anymore.  

"It's not great but it's a cool, intelligent variation on a kind of movie that by this time can be most easily identified by the license numbers on the cars in its chase sequences ... Mr. Hyams, who wrote and directed 'Busting,' brings off something of a feat by making a contemporary cop film that is tough without exploiting the sort of right-wing cynicism that tells us all to go out and buy our own guns."(Canby, Vincent (February 28, 1974). "Film: Breathing Life Into Cops and Robbers Style". The New York Times).

Contrast Canby's review to Kevin Thomas' more negative review in the Los Angeles Times below.

"an abomination through and through. It may earn the distinction of insulting both the Police Department and the homosexual citizenry of Los Angeles equally." Thomas explained that "the film's humor is burlesque-based rather than satirical, which means that the unthinking and the bigoted are invited to laugh at some of the most oppressed and persecuted segments of an all-too-hypocritical and ignorant society."(Thomas, Kevin (February 6, 1974). "A Burlesque of the Vice Cop's Lot". Los Angeles Times. Part IV,). 

It was of it's time and just like blackface,, redface and yellowface controversies over some of the Golden Age of Hollywood films just acknowledge it and get over it. 7/10


"Busting": A Sociological Study on the Last Centurions

urick12 August 2005

Warning: Spoilers

"Busting" is a satire disguised as a hard-boiled thriller that depicts the daily miseries and frustrations of L.A. Vice Squad police officers Keneely (Elliot Gould) and Farrel (Robert Blake) deprived of a social life--see the apartment and the dry living condition of Keneely--and a decent salary that makes arrogant "nouveau riche" big shot Rizzo (Allen Garfield) laugh at (to avenge, they burn Rizzo's fancy car during his birthday party in a grand restaurant), hence both Vice Squad cops' rage and anger to catch him in the act and send him to jail. Keneely and Farrel are sick and tired of the absurdity of their job that lead them to a dead-end: their superiors are corrupted (see the intercourse with their chief in a dark office). Both cops curse to unwind and are obliged to transgress the law to enforce it and they foresee a character as Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver". The moral of the film is that society is rotten in all directions and at every levels. The film offers a desperate sarcastic tone with some flourished language (see the juicy dialogs). The look is gritty, realistic, raw, naturalistic. Thanks to director Peter Hyams, it features a great pace and contains solid action scenes (among other things: the supermarket's gunfight, the ambulance chase) that give it a documentary stamp. Besides, composer Billy Goldenberg's colorful and distorted score (with echo a la Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew") perfectly fits the style of the story: streetwise, suspense-laden, terse, low-key, hectic, funky, furious, chaotic and slick. It is a pessimistic painting of the urban society, full of freaks and danger: a masseuse from a sex-shop, a nude dancer from a sex nigh-club, fags and drags from a private bar, call-girls and hookers, pimps, hustlers, thugs, gangsters, hired-killers, liberal lawyers that defend criminals, crooked officials of the State. And the worst thing, you burst to laugh at this terrible vision. The ending encapsulates the plight of Keneely who announces his job's change throughout a freeze frame of his face. In today's mentality, this film can be classified as politically incorrect because of the "direct" language and the depicted methods. I file "Busting" with the top 1970's cop and robber films: "Dirty Harry", "Magnum Force", "The Getaway", "The French Connection", "The Seven-Ups", "Charley Varrick", "The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three".

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