Film Review: ‘Finding Steve McQueen’

Variety | 3/15/2019 | Owen Gleiberman
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“Finding Steve McQueen” is a ramshackle indie heist drama that has a little bit (but not much) to do with Steve McQueen. The film’s central figure, a green-behind-the-ears thief named Harry Barber (Travis Fimmel), idolizes the squinty star of “Bullitt,” for all the reasons one might have back in 1972, when most of the movie is set. McQueen was then at the height of his popularity, but his star cachet, going back to films like “The Great Escape” and “The Cincinnati Kid,” predated the counterculture, and that was the mark of his mystique. In a New Hollywood overrun with shaggy idols like Warren Beatty and Elliott Gould, McQueen, with his baby-faced scowl, was the last neo-’50s maverick romantic stud, a guy too square to be hip and, for that reason, too hip to be square.

“Bullitt,” the movie that launched a thousand car chases (half a century later, we’re still chasing it), was the rubber-meets-the-road apex of the McQueen swagger, and in the early scenes of “Finding Steve McQueen” Harry styles himself in the image of that movie, wearing shades and a turtleneck and doing slow-mo flying-up-from-the-blacktop cruises in his 350 horse-power Pontiac GTO (a car he drives in lieu of the Mustang 390 GT that McQueen commandeered in “Bullitt”). Harry has a concrete blond look that’s sexy in a male-mannequin sort of way, but when he does his signature mime of cocking and shooting a gun, he could hardly be less McQueen; he’s got the baby face without the scowl. The Australian actor Travis Fimmel looks like Bill Pullman’s wholesome younger brother and acts with a smiley nervous flaky manner that suggests, at times, that the movie should have been called “Finding Eric Roberts.”

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