Tag Line: The time is just right for an out and out thriller like this.
Directed by William Friedkin
Starring Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider
THE PLAN A couple of cops set out to bust a massive heroin deal with a French connection.
THE KILL: Before "Dirty" Harry Callahan, before Paul Kersey, before Tango & Cash, there was Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, a rough and tough New York detective who just doesn't give a f*ck. A detective looking to prove to his collegues that he can provide results. A detective looking to rid New York of heroin and the thugs who make a profit putting the drug in the streets.
Before heroes were simply muscle-bound biceps and one-liners, they were everyday guys, gruffy guys with a 5 o'clock shadow, a drinking problem, and a serious need for a bath. They were everyday guys like you or me, except they didn't take shit from no one, and they spoke best with a hand cannon--not a one liner. Hence, the greatness that is THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Directed by THE EXORCIST director William Friedkin (before THE EXORCIST), and starring a very unlikely action hero named Gene Hackman (before SUPERMAN) and his partner in kicking crime's ass Roy Shneider (before JAWS), THE FRENCH CONNECTION was the true story of a couple of New York cops taking down a French heroin dealer.
But the storyline, nor the fact that it's based on truth is why this movie belongs in the REEL ACTION HALL OF FAME. Popeye's attitude, his drive to hunt down and bust the bad guys red handed, and one of the greatest car / subway car chase sequences ever filmed propels this 70s actioner to the top of the HALL OF FAME list!
Hackman (Popeye) and Shneider's (Cloudy) relationship as two not-so-glamorous detectives looking to crack the case of their careers is priceless and another reason why the flick is so enjoyable. They talk a lot of shit, but you know they also have each other's back when it comes down to it--and come down it does! From the beginning 'Santa Claus sting' operation to the final warehouse drug-bust in the end, this partnership is one all other partnerships should be based on.
what do you mean you don't believe in Santa Claus?!?
Along with the partnership between Popeye and Cloudy, the film also features the cliched appearance of the hardass chief of police, and asshole / rival detectives within the department. We've seen this a billion time since, from POINT BREAK to LEATHAL WEAPON, and yet it seems fresh as it's presented here. Probably because this is one of the first films to try out the formula, and guess what--it worked!
One could argue that THE FRENCH CONNECTION is more of a drama than an action movie, and I wouldn't argue with them. But when the action does hit, it hits hard! Case in point is the quintessential subway / car chase through the streets of the Bronx. Popeye is so ruthless in his pursuit that he breaks all sorts of vehicular laws in catching his man. He blows through roadsigns, oncoming traffic, a baby-carraige(!), and misses a few pedestrians by inches. I wonder how much damage (in dollars) he ended up causing... but at least he caught his man! Maybe the greatest aspect of this action sequence was how it displayed Popeye's ruthlessness as a cop and determined cunning at stopping at nothing until he catches the bad guy. This is where legends are born, people.
Underneath this beard is something... scary.
At the end of the day, THE FRENCH CONNECTION will go down in history books for a number of things, one of which being the kick-start of Hackman's career as an actor and Friedkin as a director. It will also be remembered for one of the most hard core car chases in cinematic history, and as one of the first big R rated action movies ever made. The movie also let people know that crime doesn't pay, drugs are bad, and it's not a good idea to f*ck with a cop named Popeye.
The trailer for THE FRENCH CONNECTION
TOP DEATH: Popeye's "accidental" murder of rival detective / FBI agent felt really, really good. Not graphic or theatrical, but holy hell was this guy asking for it--and it was even a shock the way it went down!
TOP ACTION SCENE: A no brainer, the subway / car chase sequence is dynamic in the amount of destruction that Popeye leaves in his path and his overall tenacity to catch the bad guy.
TOP HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Popeye Doyle hates anything homoerotic.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: After a long night of working, what to do other than pick up a random chick out for a monring bicycle ride? Popeye's a pimp and he shows it when he nails this chica... and she shows it when she's getting dressed after a nice hot shower, with Popeye handcuffed to the bed.
[After Popeye and Cloudy take down a perp]
Cloudy: How the hell was I supposed to know he had a knife?
Popeye: Never trust a nigger.
Cloudy: He could have been white.
Popeye: Never trust anyone.
Do I look manly when I lift my pinky up like this? Do I?
DRINKING GAME: Every time Popeye Doyle drinks, YOU drink!
TRIVIA: THE FRENCH CONNECTION was the first R rated movie to win an Academy Award for BEST PICTURE (1972).
The infamous car / subway chase!