Chasing Bullitt (2018)
Independently produced biopics usually have the following characteristics: a low-budget; a cast of unknowns; an affection for its subject; and streaming service distribution. Chasing Bullitt has all of these features, plus one more that distinguishes the film from the pack. It’s an enjoyable ride.
January 1971 is not a good time to be Steve McQueen. His marriage is failing, his latest film is a mess and his agent is demanding that he choose his next movie. Several options are on the table, including Junior Bonner, The Getaway and “that French prison thing”. Yet the most pressing concern for McQueen at the moment is getting his hands on the car he drove in Bullitt.
Writer/director Joe Eddy infuses Chasing Bullitt with a polish and style that belies its low-budget. Basically a collection of two-character scenes linked by a road trip, the movie travels back and forth between McQueen’s encounters to reveal various aspects of the actor. A flashback to an argument with his wife shows an ugly side of his character while an imagined conversation with his mother sheds light on his troubled childhood. Yet sometimes the film overreaches, such as when it uses a black and white short film to display the star’s king of cool persona.
Apart from this misstep, Chasing Bullitt doesn’t feel fragmented. At worst, it could be mistaken for a collection of impressive show-reels, with Andre Brooks’ eye-catching turn heading the bill.
Sula, the hitch-hiker, is a fictional character.
Though Steve McQueen did spend time in a Cuban jail, it wasn’t for selling cigarettes. According to his biographer Marc Eliot, he was arrested for driving his motorbike too close to a Cuban fort. No interrogation by General Batista is documented.
Steve McQueen did not start looking for the Bullitt Mustang until 1974, when a sequel to the film was being discussed. By then, film editor Robert Ross had already sold the car to a policeman, who later sold it to Robert Kiernan for $6000. It has remained with his family since then, despite McQueen’s repeated efforts to buy it from him.
Though the biopic references many of Steve McQueen's career, including Le Mans (1971), Junior Bonner (1972), Papillon (1973) and of course Bullitt (1968), there are no actual scene recreations. However, the scene featuring McQueen's abuse of his wife is reminiscent of The Getaway (1972).