‘A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.‘
The French Connection is a perfect example of how tension can make a movie. From the very beginning this movie is one big chase, with detectives Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) hounding heroin smuggler Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) at every turn until they can bring him down. The movie never delves too deeply into its characters, it’s all about the chase.
The various chase scenes that make up the majority of the movie are masterfully crafted. Whether it’s Popeye trailing Charnier on foot through the streets, or the famous car/train chase, every moment is dripping with tension. The chases feel very real and immediate, and they always leave the audience wondering what’s going to happen next. The movie never really lets up from beginning to end.
The story is simple, Charnier is trying to smuggle a large shipment of top quality heroin into New York, and the detectives are trying to catch him. Popeye is a mean cop with a lousy reputation looking for a big catch. We first see Popeye chasing a black criminal down on foot before beating him up in an alleyway. This tells us pretty much everything we need to know about his character. Popeye is a mean, brutal, racist cop who is completely focused on the job. His partner Buddy is always there to back him up, but even he shakes his head at Popeye’s antics. Hackman’s performance in this movie is spot on, and this was one of the movies that really made him a star.
The other characters in the movie are never fleshed out, but it doesn’t really matter – this is a battle between Popeye’s stubborn determination and the mysterious Charnier’s sly maneuvering. It all leads up to a violent conclusion that will split audiences between those that hate it and those that love it. I’m kind of caught in between. The ending never really worked for me, but I can see why it was done. I can’t really comment much more on it without spoiling things.
Overall, this movie is considered a classic with good reason. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.
What I Liked – The fantastic use of tension. Popeye is a great character. The car/train chase.
What I Didn’t Like – While I can see how the ending fits, it’s never really worked for me.
Rating – 4 out of 5 (Really Enjoyable)