Busting is a gritty ground view of early 1970s vice policing, where even the bad cops can’t get ahead. Detective Keneely (Elliott Gould) and his partner, Detective Farrell (Robert Blake), are the prototypical buddy cops — two guys who are closer than spouses, taking on the world together at all hours of the night. Their beat is ostensibly taking down drug traffickers and sex workers of Los Angeles, but their department is crooked at the highest levels — leaving them to chase down and entrap working girls rather than the men who run the underworld. One man in particular, Rizzo (Allen Garfield), laughs in the face of police involvement in his illicit activities. At what point is it too much for two upstanding police officers (who just so happen to use illegal tactics to make their arrests) to bear? When do they take the law into their own hands?
This is Peter Hyams’ feature-film debut as both writer and director, launching a career that would lead to such genre hits as Capricorn One, Outland, Timecop and The Relic. He’s not the kind of director anyone would necessarily call visionary, but his work is solid, with understated flair and an eye for good, clean storytelling and action. Busting is appropriately grimy for a ’70s crime story. Hyams’ best trick is his camera placement — frequently low, often ground-level, particularly during action sequences in crowded spaces. He starts multiple chases by aiming the camera down a hallway and allowing either the pursuer or the pursued to run directly at the audience. It’s an odd and immersive trick that isn’t frequently replicated, maybe with good reason. There’s a standout shootout in a grocery store that feels like it should be an iconic ’70s cop-drama moment that I’d never heard mentioned elsewhere.
Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray release includes two audio commentary tracks — one with Hyams, and the other with Gould and film critic Kim Morgan. The release also includes trailers for other releases by Kino Lorber.