The French Connection

The French Connection: two NYPD narcotics officers uncover a smuggling operation with links to a French movie star. Despite being set in New York, his isn’t the Big Apple we all know;  it’s filthy, seedy, unpleasant, and realistic with bodies in doorways, fires in the alleys and racial tension – there’s a thick social commentary here, and with it, documentary-level realism. Hackman is great – carving out a legendary cop figure as Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle; anti-heroic to the bone, he’s an unorthodox disobedient alcoholic racist, but has some fantastic lines and scenes to help out. Interestingly, the bad guys are also cunningly clever – particularly Fernando Rey, who’s the embodiment of dastardly, a joy to watch. Action scenes are intense (urgency of the car chase amplified by the road-level car cam) but are hidden among a lot of cops tailgating and observing their marks; it sounds boring but these sections are also very well done and exciting. Streets ahead of any ‘great cop films’ that came before it – sorry, Bullit - this became the blueprint for everything from cop dramas to computer games (Driver / Grand Theft Auto). Because of this it’s probably lacking a the full effect that it would have had 40 years ago – also, I didn’t understand the opening Marseilles scene – Doyle finds the smuggling ring without this. Bottom line: this is 90 minutes of all-killer, exciting and intriguing story – The French Connection is way, way more than just a fantastic car chase.

Score: 8.5/10

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4 comments
  1. Dan said:

    In some ways it is a shame William Friedkin wasn’t more prolific in making quality films. French Connection/The Exorcist period marked the time when he was an unstoppable force. This is a great film.

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  2. Nice review dude. This is one of my all-time favourites. Between this in the 70s and To Live And Die In LA in the 80s, Friedkin had the best cop thrillers in two decades. As much as I love Heat, I do sometimes wonder what Billy Friedkin would’ve done with that script!

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  3. Paragraph Film Reviews said:

    Feel bad guys, it was the first time I’d watched this. General rule of thumb is that I rarely watch films older than I am – for televance, ‘getting it’, and generally want to focus on Modern cinema. This however, truly a timeless classic. Looking through Friedkin’s last 20 years and it’s such a shame, I wonder just what went wrong…

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