William Friedkin is best remembered for the three films that he made back-to-back between 1971 and 1977, viz. The French Connection, The Exorcist and Sorcerer; interestingly, they hardly had anything in common – one a gritty and memorably zeitgeisty policier; one a gleefully exploitative horror; and one a superb, desolate and immersive remake of Clouzot’s magnificent The Wages of Fear – except, perhaps, in their representativeness of the New Hollywood era through their sheer defiance of norms and conventions. This has come to be considered – alongside the works of Woody, Scorsese and Lumet – as one of the most iconic New York films from the 70s, for its grimy, visceral and absorbing verisimilitude, and in the way it captured the city’s locales and atmosphere through grainy, hyper-authentic and arresting visuals. And boy was it also nonchalant in its display of the sordid side of police work! Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman, in arguably his most famous turn) is an incredibly driven cop and an unlikable pig rolled into one; he has a racist streak, aggressive personality and penchant for brutality; he steps on tows, disobeys protocols and keeps emphasizing his hunch even though that’s led to bad consequences in the past; yet, he knows that he’s right that a massive narcotics deal is in the works and he intends to do whatever it takes to thwart it. His partner, Buddy (Roy Scheider), is his polar opposite given his more sedate nature, while the film’s wily antagonist is Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), the wealthy boss of a Marseille-based heroin-smuggling syndicate. Loosely based on true events, it was defined by its moody cinema vérité style, excellent jazz soundtrack, and a thrilling car chase sequence.
p.s. My earlier review of this film can be found here.
Director: William Friedkin
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Police Procedural