Wow! Not since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has an ending so frustrated and excited me. The French Connection was awesome; that is to say, it quite literally inspired me with awe!
I’m still wondering how an actor that I love as much as Gene Hackman, in a film so successful as The French Connection (it won five Oscars including Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Director in ’72) has managed to stay off my film radar for so long. Well at last I tracked it down on blu-ray, plonked myself in front of the big screen and allowed myself to be mesmerised.
I’m as familiar as the rest of you with the Oscar flops. So it won an Oscar? Who cares? Crash won an Oscar for God’s sake. But there can be no doubt, in this case, The French Connection is worth every bit of praise heaped upon it.
The acting is first rate from every performer. Hackman acts ‘Jimmy Doyle’ at his best, although truth be told, I rarely see him at anything other than his best, I just wish he was involved in more films as gritty as this one.
That said, by no means is it Hackman alone that the film is an accomplishment. Roy Scheider is terrific as ‘Popeye’ Doyle’s partner Russo, and whilst he’s served in a fair few decent films since (take The Rainmaker, or Romeo is Bleeding for example), he hasn’t made such an impact as here. Not to mention, seldom is a villain so aggravatingly elusive as the sly Alain Charnier, played by Fernando Rey.
I would detail the plot but the IMDB one liner sums it up nicely, the rest needs to be seen to be believed:
“A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.”
Now I hear they made The French Connection 2 a little while later in ’75…so that’s my next blu-ray purchase then!