The French Connection

Critics Consensus

Realistic, fast-paced and uncommonly smart, The French Connection is bolstered by stellar performances by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, not to mention William Friedkin's thrilling production.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 56

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 44,183
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Movie Info

This gritty, fast-paced, and innovative police drama earned five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (written by Ernest Tidyman), and Best Actor (Gene Hackman). Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Hackman) and his partner, Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider), are New York City police detectives on narcotics detail, trying to track down the source of heroin from Europe into the United States. Suave Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) is the French drug kingpin who provides a large percentage of New York City's dope, and Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi) is a hired killer and Charnier's right-hand man. Acting on a hunch, Popeye and Buddy start tailing Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and his wife, Angie (Arlene Faber), who live pretty high for a couple whose corner store brings in about 7,000 dollars a year. It turns out Popeye's suspicions are right -- Sal and Angie are the New York agents for Charnier, who will be smuggling 32 million dollars' worth of heroin into the city in a car shipped over from France. The French Connection broke plenty of new ground for screen thrillers; Popeye Doyle was a highly unusual "hero," an often violent, racist, and mean-spirited cop whose dedication to his job fell just short of dangerous obsession. The film's high point, a high-speed car chase with Popeye tailing an elevated train, was one of the most viscerally exciting screen moments of its day and set the stage for dozens of action sequences to follow. And the film's grimy realism (and downbeat ending) was a big change from the buff-and-shine gloss and good-guys-always-win heroics of most police dramas that preceded it. The French Connection was inspired by a true story, and Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, Popeye and Buddy's real life counterparts, both have small roles in the film. A sequel followed four years later. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Cast

Gene Hackman
as Jimmy `Popeye' Doyle
Fernando Rey
as Charnier
Eddie Egan
as Simonson
Irving Abrahams
as Police Mechanic
Andre Emotte
as La Valle
Bill Hickman
as Mulderig
Arlene Faber
as Angie Boca
Ann Rebbot
as Marie Charnier
Andre Ernotte
as La Valle
Randy Jurgensen
as Police Sergeant
William Coke
as Motorman
Alan Weeks
as Drug Pusher
Ben Marino
as Lou Boca
Al Fann
as Undercover Agent
Maureen Mooney
as Bicycle Girl
Robert Weil
as Auctioneer
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Critic Reviews for The French Connection

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (12)

Audience Reviews for The French Connection

  • Feb 05, 2016
    William Friedkin keeps the action moving as a couple of over dedicated cops chase down a big drug shipments coming into New York. It's a game of cat-and-mouse as the cops watch the crooks watching the cops, each side looking for a break. The bad guys seem like country squires enjoying the fat of life, while the good guys are like barely caged wild animals, a wonder they don't bite anyone around them. Is the good side good, or what, the take away question. Rarely has New York felt as slimy, as rat infested. Watching all the old style autos, land based cruise ships, tool around is cool too. The difference between how cops treat black people versus how they interact with whites is spot on. Good show.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2015
    An intelligent and at times gripping thriller that features admirably-shot action sequences and well-executed cinematography.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2014
    I'm interested in the fact that this was the first R-rated film to score Best Picture, therefore, with "Midnight Cowboy", an X-rated film got it first. Nevertheless, this film is hardcore enough for me to ruin some childhood memories by saying, "So we've been told, and some choose to believe it; I know they're wrong; wait and see! Some day we'll find it, the French connection!" I was attempting to go for some kind of irony there by referring to something as cheery as "The Muppets" in a discussion about a film this brutal, but this film was always to be a little bit cheesy, because, come on, we're supposed to take French drug trades seriously here. I'd say that cartoony cheesiness on the level of "The Puppets" in this film is also reflected in Gene Hackman's character having a nickname taken from a cartoon character, but Popeye means business, almost as much as this film's Popeye. Shoot, this director is the dude who went on to do "The Exorcist", so you know that this film is going to be both bone-chilling and... a little slow. No, the film is reasonably compelling, but by no means is it especially fast-paced, you know, when it doesn't come to exposition. The film gives you hardly any background on its characters right away, and I ran with that, expecting gradual exposition to compensate, but to my surprise, this film ended up feeling more interested in its action and conflicts than their motivations and the characters involved in them. Obviously, these characters are drawn well enough to be memorable, seeing as how they are well-portrayed and ushered in a number of roles which went on to be conventional in police dramas, yet there's still a surprising lack of depth here, which distances you from the characters, just as coldness in directorial storytelling distances you from most every other aspect. William Friedkin incorporates his trademark hyper-atmosphere here, yet he doesn't exactly have the chilling material of "The Exorcist" to bite here, thus, the film resorts to a certain quietness and limpness to pacing which are pretty dull, and recurrent. I'm really not getting the praise for this film's fast pace, because a slow pace is very characteristic in this drama, and although it can be respected for its audacity and frequent effectiveness, more than that, it brings momentum to a crawl as the key blow which sends the final product falling just shy of rewarding. Of course, like I said, a slow pacing is a criticism that one might attach to, say, Friedkin's follow-up, the very rewarding "The Exorcist", and considering that the issues of this film tap out with expository shortcomings and a limp pace, while the strengths stand firm, the final product seems to stand a great chance of rewarding, and would have if "The Exorcist" didn't have a certain something which compensated for questionable storytelling touches: a richer story concept. As things stand here, there's not much to complain about largely because there's not much to discuss in the first place when it comes to this certainly inconsequential, but dramatically lacking story, whose natural shortcomings combine with the few, yet considerable inconsequential shortcomings in order to render the final product underwhelming and overrated. With all of that said, what the film does right, it does very well, enough so to come to the brink of a rewarding point that, honestly, can be found within a story concept of limited intrigue. I just got done going on and on about how Robin Moore's fictionalized account of the true story of Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso isn't quite juicy enough to craft a story concept which can guide this drama through its storytelling shortcomings, but as a realistic dramatization of a police pursuit of men in intricate drug trades, this subject matter remains pretty bitingly intriguing, as surely as Ernest Tidyman's interpretation boasts elements of biting cleverness. Short on exposition, Tidymin's screenplay doesn't have much depth which might have transcended the natural shortcomings of this action-oriented drama, but it's very rarely short on sharp dialogue, memorable set pieces, and an audacious realism which was uncommon at the time, and can at least be respected for that. It's debatable just how much Tidyman broke ground here, and sure, the formula of this film has been explored so faithfully and so often by so many different sources that, by now, it actually feels sort of like the same old same old, but it's impossible to deny the impact that this film had on the police drama, and how it made such an impact largely because it is so engaging. Tidyman, with his many flaws, can't make the film so engaging on his own, and that's where director William Friedkin comes in, with an atmospheric underplay of style of overplay of quiet intensity which is all too often too slow to be anything more than bland, yet not consistently distancing, as it reflects a sophistication that is always intriguing to some extent, particularly when gripping action - reportedly structured around the ultimately removed, and subtly dynamic "Black Magic Woman" cover by Santana which people were just starting groove out to during the making of this film - comes into play, and when enough material to draw upon with thoughtfulness sets in to establish tension. There's little actual dramatic consequentiality to Friedkin's storytelling, and that defuses a lot of momentum, but where the final could have leaned closer to mediocrity than compellingness with all of its limpness, there is enough written and directorial sharpness here to hold your interest, about as much as the performances. Needless to say, the performances are seriously underwritten, but for what the performers are given to do, they all deliver, and that especially goes for Gene Hackman, whose commanding, yet somewhat humanized charisma sets a standard for the rough and ultimately well-intentioned cop role that many have tried to emulate since this film. There's not much to praise here, just as there's not much to complain about, but as surely as each complaint is a big one, each strength is solid, and while such a formula isn't going to be enough to make the final product truly rewarding, it is enough to make a very decent, if underwhelming classic. When the connection is down (Ironically, I type these words while my internet connection is down... if anyone is vaguely interested), a lack of characterization depth, a great deal of dull spells in direction, and thinness to the dramatic consequentiality to the story concept itself secure the final product as underwhelming, but if there is intrigue to this subject matter, then it is done so much justice through clever and innovative writing, sophisticated storytelling, and a thoroughly charismatic performance by Gene Hackman that William Friedkin's "The French Connection" comes to the brink of rewarding, even if it's only the brink. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 07, 2013
    Friedkin's 'French Connection' is a brilliant mixture of European style cinematic technique, and a classic American background and story. With these two strengths it becomes a powerhouse of a film. Based on the true story of a NYPD narcotics bureau bust, 'FC' is led by the two brilliant actors, Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, who play detectives Popeye Dole and Buddy Russo. The fast-paced story, packed with cinematically irresistible moments as the car chase, alongside other great set pieces, is backed by an interesting, tense, but gently unwinding story-a perfect balance is struck. The acting from obsessive Hackman is superb, the extent of the development of his character not fully appreciated until the end of the picture. Hackman is beautifully supported by Scheider who offers a whole new layer and perspective on the seedy NY we view, and the case we follow. But perhaps the most interesting performance comes from Fernando Rey-who plays the sly villain Alain Charnier. Both the acting and the story are realistic. Hackman, nor Scheider, are classic, good-looking Hollywood action men-they are scruffy, street smart, obsessive souls who we admire but wouldn't want to be. Nor is the villain clever but too clever for his own good-he often outsmarts the detectives and matches or tops their intelligence. We cannot praise the acting without first giving massive credit to William Friedkin, whose brilliant direction of both the acting and set pieces is in a class of its own. The genius of this film is astonishing. Added with this the brilliant score and excellent, natural script make 'FC' a wonder. The film, deservedly, took best picture, best screenplay (adapted) and best actor at the annual Oscars. It is a brilliant example of filmmaking which rivals the greatest of crime and thriller films. Superb in every way.
    Adam K Super Reviewer

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