Lost And Found Series: Chapter 7 Bust A Groove

Art & Culture

Greetings everybody and  I hope we all enjoyed our previous Saturday night out with Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier at Madame Zenobia’s . If not, then shame on you. This week we are going to stay in that same year, 1974 but explore a more seedy part of America that’s not so fun. Although I am sure the ‘buddy-cop’ chemistry will keep us company and watch our backs. While the seventies was a time for partying and enjoying yourself, there were also a lot of indecent and lewd acts taking place. Some people took part in it while others believed it was their duty to see that it be stopped and come to an end. These people occasionally came in the form of vice cops and in this week’s film Elliot Gould and Robert Blake will make it their moral imperative that corruption and depraved crimes will cease in the city they love Los Angeles . Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you…’Busting’.


Film: Busting

Cast: Elliot Gould, Robert Blake, Allen Garfield and Sid Haig


Director and Writer: Peter Hyams


As usual, let’s see how this overlooked project began. In the seventies Elliot Gould was becoming a recognised prominent actor, mainly due to his successful collaborations with prolific director Robert Altman on films such as ‘Mash’ and ‘The Long Goodbye’. Gould had a persona of being able to deliver smug put-downs while still remaining charming and likable. Gould was arguably a reflection of the young, adult state of mind of America at the time. While possessing some conservative ways he was ultimately rebellious when it came to social and moral conventions and reacted in the only way to see fit…sarcasm. A sort of slightly less neurotic charming deadpan predecessor, to Jason Schwartzman’s similar characters in films if you will.


Robert Blake had found some success as a child actor first appearing in a great deal of MGM short films billed as Mickey Gubitosi. After joining the army Blake returned to acting in the fifties with his real name, and landed notable roles on Television and a career changing role as real-life murderer Perry Smith in the adaptation of Truman Capote’s book 'In Cold Blood'. Blake would later go on to be the lead in the criminally underrated New Hollywood milestone 'Electra Glide in Blue' (which could very easily be part of the Lost and Found series sometime in the future).


Director and writer Peter Hyams was able to make 'Busting' due to the praise his private detective TV film 'Goodnight, My Love' had received. Intrigued by the gritty stories of vice cops, Hyams travelled to many states and noted all the stories people told him about by prostitutes, pimps, cops etc. and began to develop a story about two vice detectives that took it upon themselves to take the law into their hands when they realise everything is not what it seems. Here is a hilarious trailer for the film.


So let’s get to the film shall we. Vice Detective Michael Keneely (Gould) and Vice Detective Patrick Farrel (Blake) usually handle small cases that policeman cannot be bothered to deal with. While sometimes they manage to make arrests with substantial evidence, their boss tends to persuade them to turn the other cheek and not pursue all the cases as it will ultimately be a waste of police time and money. All the bigger cases Keneely and Farrel are passionate about, lead to brutal crime boss Carl Rizzo (Allen Garfield). The two run out of patience and decide to capture Rizzo even if it’s the last thing they do. Along the way they come across crooked politicians and even corruption in their own department.


'Busting' was not a success on its initial release and has since being discovered by many as one of the most underrated films of the seventies due to its brutal cynical outlook not only on the world but the people that run it. Gould and Blake make a great buddy-cop duo; they both are on the exact same page of being by the book but having a little fun with it. Their energetic performances compliment each other. Especially when the film takes a more action orientated approach half way through in one of the most intense, epic chase sequences you will ever witness in a film. Forget car chases, on foot chases can be just as explosive if done properly. Within the space of about ten minutes Keneely and Farrel track down and hunt three criminals in a hotel room which then continues into a supermarket hostage situation, which leads to running down random back alleys then to a chilling abandoned building with a mini game of cat and mouse.


From here on the film takes a more dramatic turn as Keneely and Farrel start to realise what they have really got themselves into with a huge crime boss like Rizzo who is the living and breathing example that crime  does in fact pay and actually quite well. Played in a perfectly slimy manner by Garfield, Rizzo constantly reminds Keneely and Farrel that no matter how much they try, they will never be fully satisfied with their job because all the bad guys they attempt to catch have their bosses on a payroll and will be out by the morning. The two vice detectives thankfully never take no for an answer. Both believe they might as well give it a try even if it means doing something as ridiculous and petty as simply getting on Rizzo’s nerves highlighted in a great number of scenes showing the two turning up surprisingly where ever Rizzo is e.g. ruining his birthday and setting his car on fire.


Some may find it’s downbeat and gloomy standpoint a bit overwhelming. However, this can also be viewed as an authentic reflection of society with a more cynical viewpoint at the , who were growing to be more outspoken and rebellious against conforming to societal roles and taking a more anti-establishment stance as a reaction to events such as the Vietnam War and race relations. Also it has one of the most original closing credits of any film I have seen, the viewer gets to find out about the dramatic decision one of the main characters has made through overheard dialogue.  Busting therefore deserves to be in the ‘Found’ section, due to its gritty realism and witty sarcastic humour showcased by the great cast.

Follow Lee on Twitter: @la_fairweather