The words 'French' and 'Crime' do not sound right together, do they. With 'French' - you can't help but think about onion wearing pansy's, whom walk along the promenade with gay abandon. And as for 'Crime' - one word and one word only, BANG! So together what do they make? A film Directed by William Freidkin; and Starring: Gene Hackman and Roy Sheider. It was made in 1971, and lasts for 104 minutes.
The French Connection
One night, whilst two New York police detectives, James ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy ‘Cloudy’ Russo (Roy Schneider), are drinking at a bar - they spot something amiss with on of the patrons drinking at this establishment, Salvatore Boca.
You see, Sal is an ex-thief, who owns and runs a deli in the lower East side of Manhattan. So what is he doing wearing expensive clothes and drinking high-priced drinks? Huh? That's what Popeye and Cloudy want to know.
So what do these cops do next? Correct - they do whatever it takes to discover what 'Sal the Greengrocer' is really up to. Such as: (1) Trail Sal to ascertain his everyday movements. (2) Raid the police records and figure out that Sal's brother, Lou, has a dubious connection to the drug underworld. (3) Storm a drug infested bar, and gauge that there is hardly any drugs on the streets, and that a shipment is coming in soon from abroad. And (4) With all of this information at hand, both Popeye and Cloudy go to their superior, Walt Simonson (Eddie Egan), and manage to persuade him that they need to wiretap Sal’s phones to obtain some more information on his dealings.
And do you know what? Not only to they get what they want, but in addition to this, also figure out that Sal’s dodgy drug connections is starting to come to fruition as well!
Well, Sal has a French acquaintance called Alain Charnier you see, and he has a hit-man called Pierre Nicoli to. So together, both Alain and Pierre, cajole television personality, Henri Devereaux, to aide them in couriering over Sal's drugs for them. Moreover, both Popeye and Cloudy eavesdrop on their mumbled conversation about this fact, whilst surveying Sal’s phone line.
But do you think that this is an easy thing for Popeye and Cloudy to do? No - me neither - they camp out in the frosty weather - they pursue them by foot, by car, and by train - but ultimately, they have to dot the 'I's' and cross the 'T's' in the intricate detail about their drug smuggling scam.
However, after a both side's of this endeavor suffers some casualties in this game of cat and mouse, it appears that Charnier may have the upper hand in this battle due to his sly ways and shifty means.
Thankfully, though, Popeye and his team are able to figure out the true nature of his ploy, and that is why what next transpires is an ending that ends all endings. As cars clang - police scam - gangsters gang - and at the end of the day it all ends with a, BANG!
Now what can I say about 'The French Connection' that has not been said before me? Maybe some fact would suffice? Huh? (1) The real detectives who were involved with the real story, The French Connection starred in this film, as well as assisted Roy Schnieder and Gene Hackman in their roles before filming. In one incident, Hackman had to grab a hold of a real suspect, and was later concerned that he could be sued for impersonating a policeman. (2) The casting for this film was a slightly turbulent all in all. James Caan, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Breslin, Jackie Gleason, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, and Peter Boyle, all turned down the role of Popeye. Plus Fernando Rey was cast by mistake, because the original actor for this role was meant to be Francisco Rabal. (3) The car crash in this film was unplanned, and was only left in for realism - the poor chap involved just backed his car out of his driveway by chance. Also, some of the other 'car stunts' were 'unplanned' as well - such as the chase in general, and the traffic jam sequence. (4) Director, William Freidkin, edited this film to the tune of 'Black Magic Woman', even though there was no thematic music in it at the time. (5) There was a lot 'real people' in this movie apart from Eddie and Sonny. The conductor on the train was an actual train conductor - because the actor who was hired to play this part did not show up. And Irving the mechanic was the actual mechanic on the case. (6) You can see the World Trade Center being built as the end credits role. (7) The extras in the first bar scene were real police officers. (8) This was the first R rated film that won an academy award for best picture. (9) The actual story took place between October 1961 an February 1962. (10) The famous phrase 'Did you ever pick in Poughkeepsie?' is actually based on a 'good cop / bad cop' interrogation technique used by Doyle and Russo in real life. (11) After helping out with this film, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso retired from the NYPD and started to work in the film industry for a short while. And (12) The writer who adapted the original story into a novel, before the novel was then adapted into this movie, Troy Kennedy-Martin, also wrote the original 'Italian Job' screenplay.
BANG-BANG-BANG! This is seventies crime cinema at its best, BANG! It moody, BANG! It’s gritty, BANG! And it even shows a little titty, BOING! Just kidding!
Well, you have to remember, that when this film was first released, no one knew who Roy Scheider or Gene Hackman were (probably don’t know now for that matter either). So when they first cast the screen ablaze with their portrayal of Popeye (not the cartoon) and Cloudy (not the weather based smog) – boy-oh-boy – the after effects of this can still be felt today.
Heck, each scene is urban in feel, predatorial in nature, understated in presence, and dynamic in tone. Granted, I know that this may sound rather long-winded and obtuse. But in very real terms 'The French Connection' is a bench mark that nigh on all crime movies have tried to measure themselves against ever since.
Take the chase scene for example, most adventure movies today have tried to match this standard one way or another. Even Spiderman 2 paid homage to this very scene.
Though, I suppose, this will always be the case, huh?
Personally speaking, I love this movie because of four deciding factors. Firstly, all the actors in it are great - and are able to give their respective roles some scope for realism. Secondly, the overall tale is a real one - and is portrayed in that seventies way that is both earthy an evolving at the same time. Thirdly, all of the chase scenes in this film really elevates the overall pretext to such a degree, that it kept me on tender-hooks all the way through - both by car, train, and foot. And fourthly, the musical score is one for the books - as it add's suspense and flavor that is both exasperating and poignant as a whole.
Here, check out what the director has to say about it...
Now this is a great film with a great cast, and is a all time classic slice of seventies cinema (click here for my review on this films sequel 'French Connection II').
THE RATING: A