Gene Hackman excels in this real life account of the most successful narcotics investigation in the history of U.S law enforcement. The case started when the two New York detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso (played by Gene Hackman and Roy Scnieder)visited a night club on thier way home from work one night.
Whilst they were there they noticed a known Mafiosi spreading around lots of cash, so they decided to follow him after they left the club, little did they know then but they were about to embark on a case that would have international ramifications and end up being a ground breaking case that shook the heroin network in New York.
Hackman won on oscar for his superb pasionate portrayal of the New York Narc Detective, Schnider also helped out with a good supporting role culminating in a fast paced crime thriller that would set the tone for all future action movies.
If Hackman's performance won him an oscar in the first movie, then he should also have had the same accolade for his harrowing performance in part 2, his acting skills were tested to the limit when he had to portray the victim of an insidious kidnaping where he was turned into a heroin addict for him to talk to his subjects and then dumped out on the streets of Marsielle's after he had told them what they wanted to know. However the second part to this story is fictitous but never the less it was an excellent way to end the story, showing the strength of what men can do when they are pushed to the brink, and established by a wonderful cast of characters and brought to reality by the endorsement of Hackmans supberb display in both movies.
A classic that will always be rememberd for just that, and even better on DVD with great special features and a bargain at this price, and an epic 2 films that any collector should not ignore for his collection.
on 6 October 2004
What can you say about this film. arguably one of the high points of the seventies cinema, beginning with this and the Godfather and ending with Apocalypse Now. Some how nobody makes films like this anymore, as this is edgy and dangerous and shot will a semi-documentary style which makes New York look stunning. Modern day thrillers (ie James Bond and Mission Impossible)should take a leaf out of the French Connection and try and follow the trend. Hackman as Popeye Doyle is really playing at the top of his game delivering a career defining performance as well is Roy Schieder. The star though is really the direction and photography, from a man at the top of his creative powers, which lately seem to have eluded him. Take a bow William Friedkin. The car chase through the city is probably the best ever commited to film, but is exceeded by an awesome ending. If you have a home cinema system, the sound of Schieder firing that pump action shot gun (In 5.1 Surround)at the end is worth buying this DVD alone.
"The French Connection," (1971) opens: we quickly see Brooklyn, New York, a few days before Christmas. It's brutal: we see a sidewalk Santa shivering at his Salvation Army bucket; a man freezing his touchas off as he works a hot dog cart. Suddenly we realize they're cops surveilling a dive of a bar, as they tear their costumes off and rush inside. So begins a nonstop action thriller, one of the greatest crime dramas/police procedurals of the 1970's; one of Hollywood's most celebrated golden eras.
In 1971, "Connection" won five Oscars: Best Picture; Best Actor for Gene Hackman; Best Director for William Friedkin (it now appears this movie will be the crowning achievement of his career). Best Writing for Ernest Tidyman, noted author of Shaft, who wrote "Connection's" witty screenplay (Howard Hawks contributed uncredited polish). (According to an eMail I received from Tidyman's niece, Kathryn Tidyman, Ernest, although white, "received an award from the NAACP for his depiction of the character of John Shaft, a black detective. Many people who saw the Shaft films presumed he was black¬-had to be. He was just a brilliant writer who soaked up everything about the people and culture in the big cities in which he lived during his relatively short life.")
The film received its final Oscar for Best Editing. The excellent cinematography was by the talented Owen Roizman. Add to that the fact that it was based on a crackerjack novel by well-known thriller writer Robin Moore. And the odd fact that G. David Schine, a New York boy if ever there was one, and a central figure during the 1950's Army-McCarthy hearings, gets a credit as Executive Producer, and you have one flavorful film.
The plot is, of course, pretty well-known; based on a true story of a major 1970's drug bust. New York was then in big trouble, reeling from drug use, an overburdened welfare system, graffiti, crime, and near bankruptcy. Hackman ( Mississippi Burning [DVD] ) plays the always in overdrive New York City Police Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle; Roy Scheider (Jaws [DVD] ) plays Det. Buddy "Cloudy" Russo, his partner. Both stars of the true life drama, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grasso, play minor characters in the film; each advised on the picture, and would go on to successful careers, post Police Department, as advisers to the entertainment trade on police matters. We see a Bunuel favorite, Fernando Rey (Viridiana  [DVD]) as their chief antagonist, smooth Frenchman Alain Charnier; and a Costa-Gravas favorite, Marcel Bozzuffi Z [VHS]as Pierre Nicoli, his henchman. And we get the under appreciated native Brooklyn boy Tony Lo Bianco (Seven Ups [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]) as Sal Boca, hard luck fall guy. For an added fillip, we get a couple of scenes of Philadelphia girl group - always loved them-- the Three Degrees. Plus, of course, we get two of the screen's most memorable sequences: the (elevated) subway/automobile chase, and Nocoli's concluding death on the subway steps.
Most of all, we get what was at the time an absolutely fresh, genuine picture of New York as it then was, as real as a blast of Arctic winter air. We see a lot of its subways; there's even a poster somewhere in a subway car dated "1971." We see the Empire State Building on the horizon a couple of times, and the World Trade Center going up. Lower East Side landmark restaurant Ratner's; Ward's Island; The Westbury, and other luxury hotels and restaurants: Charnier sends a cup of coffee out to Hackman, shivering as he surveills him. Brooklyn has never been better served: Doyle is shown as living in a project there. My neighborhoods, the places I knew best: the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges,the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and its exit ramps, Hicks Street and Court Street,the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with its heart-stopping views of Manhattan as Xanadu, right there on the screen. The classic chase sequence begins at Bay 50th Street, in Bensonhurst. Hackman had a real-life car crash filming the chase, at Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street; it was left in. Friedkin, who was only 32 when he won his Oscar for this movie, has said he utilized documentary techniques to get its edginess; he cut that celebrated car chase to Carlos Santana's hit "Black Magic Woman." A must-see.
on 27 July 2004
The best picture-winner in 1971 (it narrowly beat Kubrick's controversial Clockwork Orange), The French Connection is smart, cool and clever - and extremely powerful cinema. Perhaps the years have been unkind to the film - in its day the realism and complex characters were a fresh style, and whilst now shallow popcorn thrillers featuring whiter than white leads rule the roost, quality films influenced by 'Connection, like "Training Day", are also commonplace.
That said, it's still impossible not to become engrossed into the dirty, twisting narrative as the film still outshines later copycat works. Hackman sparkles in the lead role as Popeye Doyle, and William Friedkin's direction flows from portraying a grimy drug-feuled underworld, through kinetic pursuits and car-chases to a hammerering finale. One of the greatest films of the '70s, and one of the best cop films ever. Unforgettable.
This awesome special edition set features a director/cast commentary, multiple documentaries (like the excellent Poughkeepsie Shuffle) and deleted scenes with commentaries. One to own, I think.
on 3 September 2009
Detective Popeye Doyle (Hackman) is sent to France to resume his chase for the drugs baron Alain Charnier (Rey)
The sequel to the Oscar winning smash brings back the electric Hackman as Popeye as he continues his search for Fernando Rey's criminal in another highly charged crime drama that is brimming with sizzling drama and passion that arguably betters the original in more ways than one.
What made the first film special for me was the climax. It was sharp, raised questions and was so abrupt you couldn't believe it on first viewing. Hearing of the sequel I watched with some scepticism given that this picked up right where it left off. Admittedly this turned out to be much slicker and tenser than its predecessor and a heavy gamble that paid off.
Like the first the scene setting and initial first stage is quite slow and so getting into this film straight away is like trying to fit a boat through your front door, it just does not have the room and force to generate the gob smacking feeling of say Pulp Fiction.
Nevertheless the film moves at a swift pace and when the excellent Hackman enters France does the film pick up and gives an ideology of how rivalry between countries spills from professional to personal vendettas. The first instalment of the two focused around Doyle fighting America's own system as he seeks to bring Charnier to justice through his own impulses. Here we see Doyle's impulses get the better of him again but now the ramifications are steeper and more consequential as he battles the French system where everything is more tidy, secretive and admittedly professional, systems which go against Doyle's actions.
Like the French Connection this follow up has a collection of heavy talking sequences where the pros and cons are weighed up to solve the problems and with the usage of different departments, undercover agents and trackers the film establishes its use of the entire French force.
Given the chase sequence in the first film was marvellously executed it was going to take something unbelievable to even match that momentous sequence. French Connection II has encoded a big under water gun fight, a sharp bullet of a climax and one remarkably exhausting drama from Popeye.
As with the first this is all about the illegal inclusion of drugs in society and when Popeye is kidnapped he is forced heroin and there is one particular scene you will never forget as he screams and shouts at his colleagues on his attempted recovery. A truly shocking moment that shows the actor in high standard and may just have the viewer in tears.
This is sharper more fluent and expressive story that like the first comes to a lovably dramatic finale.
It's rare that a sequel completely out-performs its predecessor, but French Connection 2 is as good if not better than the first film. That's partly because the formula of the original French Connection has become tried, tested and trite, so when you watch it now it feels a bit run of the mill.
But the follow up film comes across as completely fresh, a police drama which creates real and involving characters and then places them in appalling jeopardy. Popeye Doyle has been sent to Marseille to pursue the heroin kingpin who eluded him at the end of the first film. His career is on the rocks after killing five men (two of them policemen), and he is considered disposable by his own force -- and a royal pain in the behind by the French police.
Doyle speaks no French so much of the local's dialogue is a mystery to him. These days a film-maker would inevitably give us pages of subtitles but they don't appear in FC2. Instead we start to empathise with Doyle as people rattle off instructions and comments around him. He barely knows what's going on and ends up stalking the evening streets like an escaped wolf in a city. He knows his prey is close but doesn't have a clue how to find him.
There are a couple of shoot out scenes, a marvellous foot chase (Hackman spends most of these films running through streets like a wild dog on the scent), and the requisite 'girls in bikinis' moments, but the high points of the film centre entirely on Hackman's desperate acceptance of his capture, and then his awful recuperation in a French jail cell -- which results in a bond being formed with his French antagonist/colleague.
It's gripping stuff; awesome acting from Hackman. The best scenes show Popeye Doyle, an aggressive and unpleasant NY cop, stripped back to his core and struggling to surface.
The finale of the film is all about his struggle, gasping and alone, pursuing the criminal who nearly destroyed him.
If you thought the first French Connection was OK, then try this. In many ways FC2 blows the original into the weeds.
Gritty, realistic tough-cop dramas are ten a penny, but movies with craft, guile and skill are a rarity. This one is still state of the art 33 years on. Film-makers: watch and learn.
There's so much about the French Connection that works brilliantly, mostly down to Friedkin's subtly downbeat direction and Gene Hackman's extraordinarily raw, vivid and flawed character, Popeye Doyle - the model for a million cops and an actor that deserved his Oscar like few others. Doyle is ferociously passionate about his job, doesn't care who he upsets, and is tenacious to the point of obsession.
For all the clever nuances to build suspense through ever scene, FC1 will mostly be remembered for the unsurpassed and extended chase scene, a combination of foot, train and car to which words can scarcely to justice. Lovely wit too, as Fernando Rey's charming drugs overlord gives Doyle the slip in a game of chicken with subway trains (will he/won't he stay on the train?)
Great stuff and a film that stands repeated watching.
What makes this film is Frankenheimer's taut direction and the brilliant leading performances of Gene Hackman, Bernard Bresson and Fernando Rey. This is a direct continuation of the first movie and Hackman's performance in particular is completely mesmerising. Although it is an American film, it was shot almost entirely on location in France with a largely French crew. This meant that when you see Hackman strugglin' to deal with the French language, or make them understand him, this is largely for real, and creates some great moments.
Perhaps what struck me about this movie when I watched it recently, was the gritty realism of it (some of which was done with hidden cameras). So if you're expecting, or want a modern all-action continuous guns and explosions film, then this isn't your sort of film. I can imagine an awful remake being made now.
The extras on the disc are good, with interesting commentaries from Frankenheimer and also Rosen (the producer) and Gene Hackman.
on 27 March 2006
Based on Robin Moore's novel recounting a true story of drug-trafficking in the early-60s (the then-largest-ever narcotics haul in 1962), William Friedkin's Oscar-winning film brought to the American public an hitherto unseen dark and seedy view of their cities (filmed on-location in New York's Lower East Side, Times Square, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Grand Central Station, amongst others), where ne'er-do-wells lurk in the shadows of shop-fronts and side alleys, awaiting nightfall and their raison d'être: to do what cannot be seen in daylight ... It proved quite a shock. Later films like MEAN STREETS and SERPICO also brought the seamier side of metropolitan life to the fore - they, too, made for unpleasant viewing. But the critics hailed such innovation in the otherwise glossy Hollywood output.
As Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle, Gene Hackman's bruising portrayal of real-life idiosyncratic Harlem special Narcotics Bureau officer Eddie Egan deservedly won him an Oscar - unfortunately overshadowing his partner in the film Buddy 'Cloudy' Russo's (Roy Scheider) less evident contribution to Ernest Tidyman's crackling script. Both Egan and Grosso had small starring rôles in the film (Egan as Lieutenant Walter Simonson, Grosso as Klein), as well as served as technical advisors. By most accounts, Eddie Egan was not a likeable person: an unsympathetic, tireless, vulgar and brutal man, obsessively wedded to his career which was itself engaged in off-the-main-street detective work [he died recently, 2006]. In an attempt to portray Egan's character as accurately as possible, Hackman spent several weeks 'up close and personal' with Egan, getting under his skin. And get under the latter's skin Hackman did, as was attested by Egan's irritation and near-violent outbursts. But Hackman obviously did his research well, did he not ...?!! Apparently, the NYPD was so angered by the film's depiction of it that it punished Egan by firing him just hours before he signed his retirement papers.
Otherwise the film is a pretty straightforward cop thriller ... but with exciting set pieces. The scenes of Hackman's car-train chase under the elevated-railway in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in pursuit of callous hitman 'Frog Two' Pierre Nicoli are extremely tense because ... they were genuine. Producer Phillip d'Antoni wanted something 'extra' over the chase scenes in his earlier Bullitt (1968). The New York City authorities were not contacted for permission to film the scenes there, nor was the NYPD involved in stewarding traffic. Hackman committed several moving violations with a camera plonked on the dashboard in front of him - the looks of horror and fear on his face at the near-misses (eg. the mother with a baby in the pram) ... were entirely real. As was the - entirely unplanned and therefore unrehearsed - 'minor' crash of a civilian's car ... Now THAT was a lucky escape ...
The target of Hackman and Scheider's obsessions is 'Frog One,' Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), the lynchpin in a large heroin import scam. Whilst the cops get soaked standing out in the rain chewing cold pizza, debonair and urbane Charnier dines sumptuously in warm and expensive restaurants. Marseilles is (still) the centre of Union Corse ('Corsican Union') activities in France and parts of the Mediterranean, much as the Mafia is in Sicily, the Camorra in and around Naples, and the Cosa Nostra in the United States. The source of Union Corse heroin was the Laotian section of the still-flourishing 'Golden Triangle' around Burma-Thailand-Laos (recall the restaurateur in AIR AMERICA?). When the French pulled out of the region following defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the heroin trade remained largely under Union Corse control; the Communists saw no reason to stop the decadent/capitalist/imperialist [add your own adjective!] West poisoning itself ... preferably American soldiers and draftees in South Vietnam. Contacts with the region still exist.
After a number of surveillances, arrests, a stripped Lincoln Continental (the rocker panels!), a showdown, and a shoot-out ... wily operator Charnier evades capture, although the stash worth $32 million is lost. Ever relentless, vigilante Doyle will not give up:
"The son of a bitch is here. I saw him. I'm gonna get him ..."
on 22 October 2011
I have always been a huge admirer of French Connection I and II. The first part had all the ingredients of a rapidly moving and utterly tense cop thriller with the plot situated in contemporary New York of the early seventies. I never thought the sequel would be equal of surpass the first movie. French Connectin II, though, is a superb, compelling and gripping sequel and watching it the first time in its original cut made it worthwhile. The story itself takes place in the southern french city of Marseille which is well known as one of the most dangerous cities in France.
Gene Hackman as Popeye tries to get accustomed to southern french culture he is soon going to realise the different investigating methods of the Marseille police. Being followed by underlings of his biggest enemy the french drug lord who he first encountered in the States Popeye Doyle is caught off guard and hauled away in a sanctuary of the criminals. There he is going to receive a harsh and gruesome treatment and is given a injection of heroin in his venes. This part of the film shows apparently the amazing acting skills of Hackman. How he overcomes this cruel ordeal is one the most chilling and shocking moments of the movie.
To sum up I really believe this film the better and more enthralling of the two.
Regarding the quality of French Connection II this dvd version does not have any flaws and mistakes and most of all the overall sound is immaculate.
So I honestly can recommend this wonderful film to all fans of suspense movies and of couse of Gene Hackman.