Friday, February 14, 2014

534. The French Connection (1971)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: William Friedkin
Written By: Ernest Tidyman, from novel by Robin Moore
Main Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So here's how it's going to work for these final two hundred films. Basically what I've done is taken the films that remain and divided them in two. In each pile, I tried to put an equal number of mainstream and rarities, as well as divvying up the decades; ie. making sure each pile had an equal number of films from the 50s, 60s and 70s (which is really all that's left, besides a handful of 80s and about six from the 90s). With that being said, I pretty much know what I'll be watching during this season, so expect me to jump around quite heavily between the decades. I think that's all that need be then...


I hope everyone who read it, enjoyed the latest TOP 20. I put a lot of hard work into it, as always and there were some tough choices that I had to make, but ultimately, I was pleased with the finished product. Anyway, it's time to make my way toward "901 watched" and that starts with Gene Hackman and "The French Connection".

The film's plot is pretty much your standard good guys vs. bad guys, as two NYC detectives take on a band of drug dealers. The detectives in question are Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Hackman) and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo (Scheider). One evening, when they get off duty, Popeye convinces Cloudy to accompany him to the local watering hole, where he doesn't hesitate in pointing out a shady character and noting that he has a hunch the guy is into some drug deals. The shady character is Sal Boca (Lo Bianco), a store owner, who indeed IS involved in a drug deal with a group of Frenchmen and a local tycoon. Although, Popeye and Cloudy don't have any proof of this yet, they go on Popeye's hunch and tail Sal for days, even managing to get a wire tap on his phone, in hopes that they'll catch him with his hands in the cookie jar. Enter Alain Charnier (Rey), the Frenchman and the man with the heroin who plans to bring into the States and make a killing. He relies on the assistance of French actor Henri Devereaux, a French actor who won't be questioned as much due to his stature in the entertainment community. Eventually, Popeye and Cloudy are assigned a couple of feds, to help them, which doesn't make Popeye very happy - especially considering he knows one of the feds and is at odds with him.

I mean, that's it really and even that's probably too much information. All you really need to know is that it's a 70s cop flick about a few drug smugglers and a kick ass car chase. I suppose we could talk about that car chase, since I just brought it up. was amazing, was it not? The beauty part is that it's not technically even a car chase (which I'd define by one car chasing another), but rather it's one car chasing an elevated train. If you've ever read the particulars on it, it gets even more amazing as you realize that Friedkin and crew didn't even have the proper permits to shoot, thus there were times during the chase where actual, civilian cars were involved. In fact, there's a certain story about a guy getting sideswiped by the stunt driver and later having his car repair bills paid by the production. It's really something else and if you've never seen the scene, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. In fact, let's forget the car chase for a second, as there are dozens of other memorable, well filmed scenes filling up "The French Connection", including the scene with Hackman and Rey where Charnier tries to outsmart Popeye and lose the tail.

Seriously people, what's not to like? Seriously!? Because I couldn't find anything that I didn't like and all in all, I had an amazing time watching this last night. In fact, after getting up at 6:30am yesterday morning and not popping this in the DVD player until somewhere around 10pm, I didn't even begin to doze off and even when I laid down (which was past midnight), I just laid there for about ten minutes, thinking about what I just watched. What a great movie and I know I've said it before, but dammit, they just don't make them anymore, like they did in the 70s. Imagine a picture like this even getting nominated for a Best Picture Oscar nowadays, let alone winning! It would never happen. The 70s had a certain grit, a certain independence and filmmakers who knew what they wanted and would do anything to get it, like William Friedkin sitting in the backseat of the car, during the chase scene, to film it himself. Great, great stuff here people and this should've been at the top of your Netflix queue yesterday, so that you could have spent your Valentine's Day today with Popeye!

RATING: 9/10  I really wanted to go '10', but I just didn't get that '10' feeling when I was watching and that's something I require when giving out a '10'. Oh well, a '9' is still great and there's always a chance for an upgrade.


February 14, 2014  8:10pm


  1. In films, as in real life, I strive to (that is not to say I always succeed!) avoid sweeping generalisations..and not to condemn a film before I've seen it because a certain director, a star or genre.
    (I may make an exception to this rule for Claude van Dam or Jennifer Aniston)
    Films that rely on car chases ia a good example. A friend I shared some living space with recently.. when trying to pursued me to watch a 'her film' would have to promise me it had a low 'squealing tyres' content if I thought it looked like I wouldn't like it.

    Fortunately I first saw 'French Connection' years ago, long before I developed this allergy to car chase movies. Or, more accurately, probably before the concept of a car chase became a signature of a low-on-ideas movie..

    A rather long winded introduction there Andrew, but a way of explaining why we both may be a bit surprised i'm going to pretty much let you have this one...Maybe not quite 9.. but a good 8.

    We cannot ignore the central car chase can we? Regrettably, even I must admit it was effective, tense, well done. I still beg to say I prefer the other tense bits.. the stake out of the car, the dismantling of it to find the stuff.. to me more thrilling.. but if you ever had to sell the concept that car chases CAN be Ok, I guess this is the one.

    1. Actually, I'll agree with you on the other tense bits. The car chase was GREAT, but my heart was beating out of my chest right before the car chase, when Popeye is walking slowly to the roof to try and nab the sniper. I also really enjoyed the dismantling of the car and the scene I mentioned, where Charnier tries to outsmart (and succeeds) Doyle on the subway.

      Glad you liked this one. That's 1 in the agree column.


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