Saturday 11 February 2012

The French Connection [1971]

The French Connection, with its gritty, visceral and action-packed tale of two unconventional, no-nonsense New York city cops taking the drug mafias down through their doggedness, craftiness and courage, became one of the most influential American movies of the 70’s and provided the template for many such buddy-cop action films to follow in later decades. However, what separated it from most of its imitators were its in-your-face display of brutality, its hard-edged realism in its depiction of the Big Apple and the ensuing grime and grunge, and its bleak and fatalistic finale (as opposed to happy endings where everything gets tied together properly). The two police detectives in this film, viz. Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider), were the classic angry cop/cool cop duo and their contrasting personalities provided a major drive for the story. The movie was shot in a near cinema verite style – the visuals are completely bereft of any form of stylizations, while the narrative too is suitably jagged and rough to complement the film’s proceedings, and its on-location shots provided the kind of portrayal of the city that was anything but romanticized. And not to forget, the movie comprised of one of the most spectacular and iconic chase sequences where Doyle, oblivious of the safety of civilians, makes a mad dash in a forcibly acquired car while trailing an elevated train with which a hired killer is trying to escape. The film is well enacted and very well paced, too.

p.s. My latest review of this film can be found here.

Director: William Friedkin 
Genre: Crime Thriller/Action/Police Detective Film 
Language: English 
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

I have come to appreciate this thriller more in recent years, as I recall back in 1971 I was appalled it won the Best Picture Oscar over both THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which I still see as better films. However after a recent re-viewing at the Film Forum I am convinced it does hold sway in a number of ways, ways that you've admirably approached in your excellent capsule assessment here. The hard-edged realism, compelling chase scene, Hackman's extraordinary performance and influence on subsequent genre films all elevate it's stature.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Yes, given its storyline & its being a thriller, it's often difficult to compare it with more adulated dramas or movies belonging to other genres - I guess that's one pitfall of being a thriller. But yeah, this movie had a lot working for it, and its influence too has been enormous (of course one can only say that in hindsight, and so I do understand why you were not as impressed by it back then).