60/60 Extra: The French Connection.

Man, this was a tough one. I'm gonna get Hell for this one... so let's just get this over with. The film follows two cops in the narcotics unit, the foul-mouthed 'Popeye' Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner, Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider). They start getting wind of a big drug deal about to go down, so they spend a couple months following its suspects and staking everything out before they make their move. But there's a French connection--a French man who has come to the States in order to make the deal.

This might sound confusing to those who read the Heat review, but my issues with this film are almost the exact opposite reasons of my issues with that film... but at the same time, almost the exact same reasons. Let me explain. As I mentioned, Heat had too many unnecessary subplots that tried to deepen the characters but ended up just staying at a shallow level and never amounted to much. Despite this, I could follow that film easily and always knew--and even, at times, cared--what was going on. This film had no subplots. It didn't try to make its characters very three-dimensional whatsoever, with the exception of the last minute of the film (which I'll get to later). And even watching with my fullest attention, I had a hard time following or caring much about anything.

First and foremost, I didn't give a damn about any of the characters. And it wasn't because I disagreed with their personalities or anything like that. They just felt so foreign (no pun intended). Almost nothing about their personal lives was explored. All we saw of them, for the most part, was them following people for the entire movie. I just... felt nothing for these characters. And if I can't get invested in the characters, then... you're gonna have a hard time grabbing me for the movie.

Of all the kinds of "cops" films out there, the narcotics/drugs ones always tend to be my least favorite (Training Day notwithstanding). They just don't really catch my interest. So, as with Training Day, they tend to need to catch me with great characters and some fine acting. They've already lost me on the characters. Can they at least make up for it in the acting?

Gene Hackman does the best with what he's given. And as he's the main character, I'm happy for that. He's at least interesting as the "bad cop," the one with the attitude. I suppose maybe because of the time the movie was made, but I would have liked to have seen more with the character. Besides that, he has a moment in the last minute of the film where you notice he's really lost it due to his obsession. And then you get the ending--which I think might have worked better had they stopped there and left it ambiguous. But whatever.

There are two scenes that I feel should be mentioned, both involving trains. First is my favorite scene in the film: Gene Hackman is following the French dude into a subway station, but the Frenchman knows he's being followed. So he keeps getting on and off the trains at that station to throw off Hackman, and Hackman keeps having to come up with excuses to follow him on and off the trains. It's almost a comedy routine, but I found it pretty clever. The other scene is the famous "still holds up today/most epic scene ever" car vs. train chase scene. Going in, I heard nothing but excellent things about this, and I was waiting just to see this bucket of awesomeness. And then it happened and... I was so sorely let down. Not only is about half the car part done in first person so you're rarely even seeing the car as it speeds on, but the car and train are almost never shown in the same shot. It gives a feeling that it's not really a race as much as two separate scenes juxtaposed against each other. And on top of that, almost literally the entire thing has Gene Hackman honking that damn horn, and it got really annoying pretty fast.

I'm just gonna end this review there. On the whole, I can say that director William Friedkin made a solid film. "WHAT?" you say, after I just finished ripping it apart. No, I think that on a technical level, this movie isn't bad. I mean, Hell, it won 5 Oscars, after all (nominated for 8). And you know the guy is a talented director. Right after making this, he went on to direct The Exorcist, nominated for 10 Oscars (winning 2). (Coincidentally, co-star Roy Scheider was only 4 years away from starring in a little known horror film of his own.) Anyway, all of my issues with this movie are--for the most part--purely personal. The story and the characters and the filmmaking, etc., weren't bad by any means. They just weren't what I want and like in a film. Hence, that's why I feel this was a tough one.

Stop Saying OK! OK.


  1. Ouch. You're just attacking some of my favorites left and right. While I don't enjoy The French Connection as much as Heat, I do have to disagree about the big chase. My guess is that you'd heard so many good things about it that it was bound to disappoint. Nice post either way, though.

  2. Yeah, the big chase was a let down based on what I heard going in. However, even had I not heard all that, I still wouldn't have been enthralled by it--for the reasons I gave in the review. The only thing I felt during that chase was "Oh, that poor man's car that Gene Hackman is destroying!" and "STOP HONKING THAT EFFING HORN!" There really was no feeling of excitement for me.

  3. You won't catch any grief from me. I've always thought this movie was terribly overrated. I'd rather watch Bullit any day of the week.

    And for exactly the same reason as you--I couldn't be arsed to care.

  4. I completely agree. While I admire the craft and some of the sequences are fantastic, I could care less about anything that transpires in this film. The story fails to engage me on any level.

    There are still a couple of great moments. My favorite in the film is actually the one where they end up eating burgers (or was it pizza?) on the sidewalk while they keep an eye on some fat criminal eating in a nice restaurant. Perhaps a bit on the nose, but I found it an effective moment

  5. Steve: I do need to catch Bullitt still.

    James: Wow, I thought I was gonna be eaten alive with my thoughts on this film, but apparently I'm not alone at all!

    And yeah, it's pizza. That was a fun scene, especially when they pull inside the restaurant and you see the waiter serving fresh coffee, and then Gene Hackman pours his out onto the sidewalk in the background.

  6. Man are you in a grumpy mood. Raging hell first on Heat and now French Connection. What the F'ck...

    I'm so raged up to even write why they are the modern masterpieces they are. Especially Heat!

  7. Joel: Well, I actually liked Heat, despite my comments on the more negative aspects. But no, I didn't like this one much. But modern masterpieces? Eh... you'd have quite an argument on your hands to persuade me there.

  8. I was given the DVD for this and its sequel some years back. I watched about 20 minutes and had to turn it off for some reason or another. I never went back to it and eventually gave away the DVDs.

    I doubt it was completely the flick's fault - I don't remember the context of the situation when I was watching it - but I know it didn't grip me enough to even get back on the bike. Doesn't sound like I've missed much, though it's supposed to have an all-timer car chase...oh wait, you said that pretty much sucked, too. Guess I'll be sticking with Ronin as my all-time best car chase(s) movie. :)

  9. Hackman type of realism is often in danger of being taken as documentary realism. Hackman is a mighty fine actor and for me a big star. He has a glittering list of films to his credit. Right from Bonny and Clyde, gritty spy of French Connection, Lex Luthar of Superman, inverted eavesdropper of The Conversation, brutal Sheriff of Unforgiven and master thief of Heist. He has played Presidents and their guard. What ever one might say, for his army of admirers, his "inner fire and air of regret ...... his rascally charm, comic intelligence, and wicked streak" is very much evident lending him the charm and charisma of a superstar.


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