Charlie Congers (Charles Bronson) is a police lieutenant in the Phoenix department, and he has just seen a body at the coroner's who he learns died of a drugs overdose. As he leaves, he notices a police car driving recklessly away from the area and heads off in hot pursuit, blocking the vehicle's path and getting out to ask the driver what he thinks he's doing. He is sobered to hear that the dead woman was the driver's girlfriend, and he takes the man for a coffee to talk over his problems; he won't calm down, however, and rants that men like Charlie should take the law into their own hands...
This being a Chuck Bronson movie, how likely do you think that will be? Well, if you were anticipating that course of action then you'd have to wait the last ten minutes, because up to that point Charlie plays it strictly by the book, even if he is undercover. Love and Bullets is not too highly thought of in the cult star's canon, but there are a few of his fans who like his performance here, and the curiously low powered antics he gets up to, but perhaps it was most notable for being the first of his films he made for the British television entrepreneur Lew Grade, who was hoping to break into the cinema business.
Most of the resulting works from the ITC stable to reach the big screen were too obviously straining for class or effect and fell somewhat flat, so sad to say this one was little different. It was intended as a project for John Huston, and reports differ about whether he actually directed any of this or had to leave before any shooting commenced; the idea of Bronson being guided by Huston is an intriguing proposition, so it's a pity it never really came to anything substantial. As it was, Cool Hand Luke director Stuart Rosenberg was called in to salvage the movie, and performed an anonymous job here, as it could have been anyone in the chair in comparison to many of Bronson's later efforts.
This being a vehicle for that star at this stage in his career, another star was along for the ride, Bronson's wife Jill Ireland who played Jackie Pruit, the woman he was supposed to be protecting. She is the moll of top level gangster Joe Bomposa (Rod Steiger going way over the top and acting as if the stutter was all his character needed to make him distinctive), but she is threatening to be persuaded by the law to tell all and put a lot of hoods behind bars. Ireland played this in a dumb blonde style, a method she had mastered since the start of her career: just look at the episode of Juke Box Jury which survives with her as a guest for proof of that, and here she was almost a parody of herself.
This means that you could go either way with Love and Bullets, appreciate it as a straightforward chase thriller or get distracted by the attempts to make this more memorable, most of which could be annoyances if you were not in the mood for them. Never quirky enough to be truly essential, there were a few aspects to prevent boredom sinking in, including for British viewers the thought of bad guy favourite Henry Silva's hitman having Lorraine Chase as a girlfriend - yes, it's definitely her, straight off the back of her fame from those alcoholic beverage TV ads. She dips her toast and marmalade in her breakfast egg, incidentally. Anyway, much of this is set in Switzerland, therefore you know a cable car drama is not far away, as will be shots of the peaks and lots of snow for Chuck and his missus to make good their escape through (slowly). It has a "this is the seventies, so let's have a depressing ending" climax, but otherwise it was fairly blah. Music by Lalo Schifrin.