The French Connection (1971)



Critic 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.

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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
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox

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Gene Hackman
as Jimmy `Popeye' Doyle
Fernando Rey
as Charnier
Eddie Egan
as Simonson
Irving Abrahams
as Police Mechanic
Bill Hickman
as Mulderig
Andre Emotte
as La Valle
Ann Rebbot
as Marie Charnier
Arlene Faber
as Angie Boca
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 (55) | Top Critics (10)

Its trigger-fast, explosive scenes and high-tension chase sequences (the one in "Bullitt" pales by comparison) will have you literally gasping for breath.

Full Review… | February 21, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

There is only one problem with the excitement generated by this film. After it is over, you will walk out of the theater and, as I did, curse the tedium of your own life. I kept looking for someone who I could throw up against a wall.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

A knockout police thriller with so much jarring excitement that it almost calls for comic-book expletives. POW! ZOWIE!

Full Review… | February 19, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Producer Philip D'Antoni and screenwriter Ernest Tidyman have added enough fictional flesh to provide director William Friedkin and his overall topnotch cast with plenty of material, and they make the most of it.

Full Review… | February 19, 2008
Top Critic

William Friedkin's symphony of long, sharp shocks is memorable for any number of sequences.

January 17, 2008
Time Out New York
Top Critic

Popeye also earned counterculture points by mistakenly shooting a federal agent and exhibiting a conspicuous lack of remorse.

August 28, 2007
Village Voice
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The French Connection

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. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

An intelligent and at times gripping thriller that features admirably-shot action sequences and well-executed cinematography.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

Exciting. Surprising. And (not surprising!) and excellent performance by Gene Hackman.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

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