The French Connection (1971)

Dir. William Friedkin
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider
104 minutes
Won 5 Academy Awards–Best Picture, Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Editing

Reid Said:
September 3, 2004 at 11:04 am

I have seen parts of the movie, like the famous car chase scene, but I never saw the entire movie. Bullit was another movie like that, and when I watched the entire movie recently I was really disappointed. So I was afraid that The French Connection would be the same way. It wasn’t.

My liking the film is a bit surprising because the film was almost like a documentary on catching -dealers. (I believe the film was based on an actual event or at least real-life police officers.) The film didn’t have any major surprises or mysteries, just two cops relentlessly chasing after a couple of -dealers.

(Spoilers)

What about what many believe as the best car-chase scene in cinema? Well, it was pretty good. I liked the fact that the chase began on foot. Then when the villian left in a train before the cop, played by Gene Hackman, could not get there in time, he took a car and chased after him. That was a nice sequence and set-up.

The car scene was also effective because of the perspective of the camera–right in front of the car. I’m sure other chase scenes utilize this view, but somehow it was really effective. Hackman, as Popeye Doyle, also added to this scene because the character is so intense. There’s also the scene where he almost runs over a baby that makes the scene so effective.

I should note that the director William Friedkin also sets-up another great car-chase scene in the film, To Live and Die in LA (at least I’m pretty sure he directed that).

Hackman’s Popeye Doyle also received a nomination and maybe a win for best performance. I should say a little about his character because I didn’t find the character or his performance so memorable. My guess is that Popeye could have been the archetypal intense, almost crazy police officer. You know the one that has a hot-temper and doesn’t mind breaking the rules to bring achieve justice. I’m thought of Mel Gibson’s Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies, for example. I suspect that seeing other intense or even crazy cops in films made it more difficult for me to appreciate the character and Hackman’s performance.

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