“Busting ……. It’s the dirty work that has to be done.”
Elliott Gould joins Robert Blake as the duo portray two undercover police officers assigned to the vice squad. On a daily basis they hit both the seedier side of town looking to arrest those in the sex trade as well as the high class call girls who ply their trade within the confines of the medical society. Gould masquerades as the “john” while Blake awaits the call to storm in and bust up the tryst.
First thing one should notice from the beginning of the film is that Gould and Blake have an enjoyable chemistry together playing off one another to great success. From the opening scenes where they pressure a dentist employing Cornelia Sharpe’s talents into cooperating with a sting operation to a far from politically correct sequence involving Antonio Fargas and a bar for gay men, Gould and Blake are delivering their A game for our enjoyment.
The boys are soon to learn that there is corruption in the department when a certain black book of Miss Sharpe’s goes missing and they are pressured to recant their statements on the stand. Gould isn’t happy about it and this leads to him and Blake tearing down a pornographic book shop run by Michael Lerner. All roads seem to leading to crime king pin, Allen Garfield.
Injecting an action sequence into a police melodrama is pretty much a requirement of the genre. This gives director Peter Hyams the go ahead for a night chase where Gould and Blake happen upon a drug exchange leading them through a grocery store shoot out culminating in some shady police work from the back up officers that they call in. Crooked cops and shady police procedures seem to dog our two struggling officers.
Once the boys crowd Garfield a bit too closely, they found themselves literally in the sh—ter. They’ve been assigned to stake out a men’s room where complaints of sexual activity have been rampant. Comically, the stalls basically become their offices as they try to figure out how best to take down Garfield and his number one henchman played by the bald headed Sid Haig. Haig should be no stranger to fans of the early 70’s Blaxploitation films right up to recent times heading the cast of some Rob Zombie stomach turners.
The films goes a little too far with the ketchup effect in a couple of scenes where the blood is just a might too thick thanks to some vicious beatings and gun shot wounds during the action sequences. That doesn’t detract from the Gould-Blake teaming here though I do wish the film had ended on a more firm handed note. Gould has that shaggy dog look carried over from Mash working for him while Blake for me had a great screen presence during this part of his career and subsequently on Baretta reruns that I would catch as a kid on TV.
I couldn’t help but reminded of the 1986 Billy Crystal – Gregory Hines film, Running Scared while watching this. While the latter is more of an outright comedy film with plenty pf police action thrown in, Busting seemed to be a distant relative thanks to Gould and Blake focusing on one criminal and bending the rules to take him down. All the while keeping a sense of humor during the proceedings. Isn’t it strange that Running Scared was actually directed by Hyams? Believe it or not, I had no idea of that fact till just now as I do a bit of research. So was Running Scared an attempted re-imaging? I can’t say for sure but it does prove to me once again that I know movies. Just not always who directed them. 🙂
If you’re a reader of opening credits, you might spot the all important Stunt Gaffer is listed as Hal Needham. Hal would have a long career in stunts and directing culminating in an honorary Oscar for his contributions to film.
Busting was Hyams first theatrical film. He would go on to make two films I love to revisit. Outland and another Gould title, Capricorn One. Watchable thanks to the Gould and Blake teaming and that seventies feel leads me to wish the film had turned out a bit stronger. I’d like to have seen the duo take on another case.