Ernest Tidyman's story follows the adventures of two New York narcotics cops, "Popeye" Doyle (Hackman), and his partner, Russo (Roy Scheider). They track a lead about a large drug delivery that develops into a plan that could entirely destroy the marijuana trade between Paris and New York.
The movie contains convincing, memorable action sequences. In an unexpected, timely scene, Doyle walks down the street when suddenly a sniper hiding on top of his apartment opens fire. The sniper misses and hits an innocent bystander. Doyle finds cover behind a tree. More pedestrians rush to care for the injured victim. Doyle tells them to run. This sequence convinces us that the threat of the sniper is real, which leads us to one of the most thrilling chase scenes in film history.
Most modern action scenes involve massive gunfire from both the good and the bad. It's almost as if the bullets have read the screenplay, hitting their targets only at the plot's discretion. The French Connection gives us convincing situations without the plot contrivances and predictable shoot-outs. The story flows smoothly because everything that happens is character driven.
Recent action movies contain special effects that make The French Connection look like child's play. Nowadays, a film can contain enormous explosions, amazing car chases and crashes, impressive computer generated images, and enough gunfire to impress the Army. But it's not the special effects that make The French Connection a true classic, it's the quality of the performances, the enticing direction by William Friedkin, the brilliant editing, and the intensity and selectivity of the action sequences. Today's filmmakers can throw almost anything into their movies, but there's one thing that they often forget that The French Connection hits right on the nose: action itself doesn't drive a story forward, character does. In today's world, that's almost a novelty.
The double-disc DVD collection contains more Connection arcana than most can fathom, supplying an exhaustive amount of detail about the production (those car chases were shot in real traffic, folks) and its stars (the real cops on whom the film is based appear in small roles). I learned a lot in watching the deleted scenes, documentaries, and various commentary tracks -- seeing how low-budget the production actually was gives you a new respect for the film.
One missed connection.
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 9th October 1971
Box Office Worldwide: $41.2M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 20th Century Fox, D'Antoni Productions
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Fresh: 50 Rotten: 1
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: William Friedkin
Producer: Philip D'Antoni
Screenwriter: Ernest Tidyman
Starring: Gene Hackman as Det. Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, Roy Scheider as Det. Buddy "Cloudy" Russo, Fernando Rey as Alain Charnier, Tony Lo Bianco as Salvatora "Sal" Boca, Marcel Bozzuffi as Pierre Nicoli, Frédéric de Pasquale as Henri Devereaux, Bill Hickman as Bill Mulderig, Harold Gary as Joel Weinstock, Arlene Farber as Angie Boca
Also starring: Ernest Tidyman
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