Bullitt (1968) is an obvious precursor to “24.” The number of similarities is striking:
- Steve McQueen is an early version of Jack Bauer – i.e., a mid-level, mid-career law-enforcement operator who is well known within his agency as high-risk, high-reward.
- He has a beautiful, sensitive girlfriend (Jacqueline Bisset) who worries that his law-enforcement activities are causing him to be insensitive and callous.
- Some superiors try to restrain him to standard protocols while others trust his judgment.
- Every time that a lead dead-ends, another one magically materializes.
But there are also significant differences because the world in 1968 is vastly different than the world post 9/11:
- Bullitt is a hot-shot police lieutenant who is supposed to protect a mob target, so he plans to do it with only three men, each working an 8-hour shift. Security today would be vast.
- Professional hit men shoot their victim only one time in the shoulder and his cop protector only one time in the leg. Professionals today would riddle the body with bullets and not leave behind any witnesses. (The Boston-marathon murderers proved the unprofessional status by abducting a guy and later letting him go.)
- Twice Bullitt allows a slow-moving assailant to escape on foot.
- A criminal takes a gun on a commercial jet without any problem.
Frank Bullitt can’t hold a candle to Jack. Same thing for the movie. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 97% from the critics and 83% from the audience. Boy, we’ve come a long way since 1968. I give the movie three stars out of four.
Django Unchained (2012) received a lot of buzz because of its graphic violence and its treatment of slavery. I recall hearing that black director Spike Lee was upset, arguing that the subject of slavery could not be accurately handled by the film’s white director Quentin Tarantino. Since watching the movie, however, I have read that Lee’s main criticism was that Tarantino treated slavery like a spaghetti western instead of like the Holocaust. That seems like a valid criticism, but I don’t know if most blacks in America today have such horrid images of slavery that they feel any treatment of it has to be serious and grave.
With respect to the film’s graphic violence, Tarantino has a history of it – Kill Bill, Inglourious Bastards, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, etc. I lost count of the number of evil white people dispatched by protagonists Jamie Foxx and Christopher Waltz, but the victims seemed to be like balloons full of nothing but blood that explode when shot. Rotten Tomato critics scored the movie at 89 and the audience liked it even more at 94. That is too high for me because I like movies that make me think, or at least have a solid romance. This movie was fun and entertaining, but there was nothing to think about and the romance was utterly superficial. I give it three stars out of four.