The French Connection Reviews
Friedkin's film is a fantastic example of a character driven film with a brilliant use of camera throughout. The car chases are frantic and visceral, never letting its audience both breath or relax, forcing them to undertake the stress and tension. Performances are great, Hackman is as charismatic as ever and creates such a formidable character. The use of camera is also terrific throughout. Completely immersive and engages with its audience.
Gene Hackman also couldn't have played Doyle any better than he did here, his role as an at-times sadistic cop with a personal chip on his shoulder, thrust within in a gritty, crime-embroiled New York City. But the problem is, there is little-to-no character development, to the extent that despite our longstanding adventure with Doyle, we don't actually care too much of his outcome, this goes likewise with the villains and for Roy Scheider's character. In a movie that's about good versus evil, it's usually vital to give us a character we can relate to, so we can actually distinguish the difference between the good and the evil, so we can actually root for a character's succession. But it never happens, we are presented with the basics of Doyle and that's it, from there on it's about the job.
But as I've previously mentioned, this film is revolutionary in the crime genre, and in cinema as a whole, and I enjoy the experience every time I watch it, the thrilling chase scenes, the gruff embodiment of hate that is Doyle, to the paranoia-clad villains, Friedkin's achievement can't be diminished.
The first thing that struck me when watching the film was the grimness of 1970s New York City, its highways, streets and subway are excellently captured by the director with its sounds of street horns replacing the need for a soundtrack.
The main characters are police officers Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his slightly younger partner Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider).
Hackman and Scheider both look so young when I consider there later roles in films such as Jaws (Scheider) and the Superman franchise (Hackman).
Popeye (not the cartoon character!) is an overtly racist, streetwise cop whilst Russo is the calming influence in the partnership!
The drug side is led by Marseilles entrepreneur Charnier (Fernando Rey), the late Spanish Rey is perhaps best known for his work on some of Luis Bu˝uel films and has a filmography as big as anyone!
Tony Lo Bianco who I only watched last week in the cult classic The Honeymoon Killers also has a role.
The grime of New York is contrasted with the opulance of Marseilles and a brief scene in Washington DC.
A chase sequence featuring a gas guzzling car of the era against an overhead Subway train is memorable for its editing and realism.
The film won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor (Hackman) and editing Oscars.
Whilst good I don't actually rate it as good as Dirty Harry starring Clint Eastwood. Again perhaps its is the grime of a cold, winter New York versus the relative sunshine of San Francisco?
Also the film ends pretty downbeat with drugs being smuggled into New York via a Lincoln car, Charnier escaping the law and a ruined building scene.
Under the surface, though, we see the toll this takes upon law enforcement and the public at large. In pursuit of a $31 million heroine deal, Gene Hackman's Det. "Popeye" Doyle slowly loses his sanity and perspective of what his role as a police officer is in the first place. During the iconic train pursuit, he steals a car, wrecks it several times, and puts the Brooklyn pedestrian population in needless danger. His mind focuses only on the bust and everything else is consequential. That alone makes the final seconds of the film that more psychologically brutal.
We can take Doyle's struggle and superimpose it on the War on Drugs itself. What is the cost to reward ratio in outlawing narcotics and targeting minority and liberal communities by proxy? No one at the time had that much foresight, but in retrospect "The French Connection" makes a poignant commentary. 7.9/10
Great action and acting makes The French Connection a tense police thriller.