3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The battle of man vs frog,
This review is from: The French Connection & French Connection II [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)Until this The French Connection was released the maximum amount of insight the average joe had into police procedure were the straight-laced, no-nonsense cop shows such as Dragnet. Cops were heroes, the robbers were villains. The French Connection blurred the line, and set a standard for police drama that influenced a generation of imitators that has lasted until this very day with whatever latest incarnation of Law & Order.
Gene Hackman (who had mostly been a second banana until this film) plays Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle, an otherwise good cop who's relentless pursuit of the bad guys inevitably ends in disaster. His wildly unorthodox methods have left him alienated among his peers with only his partner Buddy Russo (that would be Roy Scheider) remaining loyal to him. He happens upon a conspiracy involving small-time local hoods making drug-dealing connections with a French crime boss but virtually no one believes that the deal is going down, and soon.
William Friedkin really captures the filthy, grotty, ugly front of the old New York. Before the clean-up of the streets in the 80s it was certainly a grim, hostile place and the French Connection doesn't play it down one iota. Set during Xmas (though far from being an Xmas film), Friedkin draws an unfair line between Doyle freezing in the street, watching Charnier ('Frog 1') dining in the finest restaurants. Charnier even lives in a lovely waterfront mansion in Marseilles while Doyle is stuck living in the Marlborough Projects. It surprises me little that so many cops were on the take back in the day. But Doyle is honest, believing that dedicating himself to the pursuit of villains will make a difference.
That's where he's wrong!
It's bleak, it's a downer, but there is plenty of intrigue and a brilliant car chase (done back in the days when everything was REAL before the camera and not CGI) that is edited to perfection. The film won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and is a fine example of the gritty 70s edge that modern equivalents are the worse without.
In the vastly underrated sequel (the first true Hollywood '2') Popeye travels to (more like discarded to) Marseilles after his crushing defeat at the end of the first film. The recovered heroin was stolen right out of the police evidence and made it to the street regardless, lining the pockets of Popeye's crooked colleagues. That's the price you pay for being honest.
The French don't want him and make no attempts to hide their discourteousness as Popeye hits the streets, desperately looking for the elusive 'Frog 1'. His tough-guy schtick may have worked in the Big Apple but in France he's hopelessly incompetent and way out of his depth. Calling him a fish out of water is to put it lightly.
Instead of being a carbon copy of the original, FCII takes a radical turn in the second act as Charnier captures Popeye and turns him into a junkie, the thing he hates even more than criminals. Near-death, and humiliated by Charnier even further, Popeye undergoes a harrowing withdrawal, going cold turkey in a French police cell while his partner looks after him (there ain't no gratitude though). Barely waiting two seconds to regain his strength, the hunt is back on to finally get revenge on Charnier.
John Frankenheimer's take on the story is much slower and drama-orientated than the quick, raw energy of the first. Going deeper into Popeye Doyle's unstable, edgy personality makes it more of a character study and a bit of an epic when compared to what William Friedkin gave us.
The ending may be as abrupt as the first, but it wastes no time in winding down the story. FCII might have the best, sudden climax of any movie ever made.
Don't misjudge it as a 'same again' sequel, it's very different and is brave enough to take the character and story is a bold direction. Frankenheimer's career was full of underrated efforts, but FCII is the best of them.
There has been a lot of controversy over the picture quality of the Blu Ray release. Friedkin has apparently changed the color-timing of the first movie in order to make it look warmer, claiming 'it's how I always wanted it to look'. The cinematographer called this transfer 'an abomination' and fans of the film have been vocal in their disappointment. There are rumors that Friedkin remastered the film and screened it digitally WITHOUT the changes and only when it hit BD did Fox tamper with it without his knowledge. Either way, it has not been corrected. As a result, Frankenheimer's FCII is the best-looking of the two. Both movies are in 1080p 1.85:1 with DTS HD-MA 5.1 and have plenty of extras. Despite the controversy, it's a BD package worth buying.
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Mar 2012 12:28:46 GMT
Trevor Willsmer says:
Fox have finally remastered this in the States in a transfer approved by Roizman with Friedkin's involvement. At present it's a US Best Buy exclusive, but apparently it looks the way it should this time.
In reply to an earlier post on 8 Mar 2012 21:17:55 GMT
Inspector Gadget says:
Hey great. Thanks for that!
‹ Previous 1 Next ›