Released 1971 (USA)
American, in English (some subtitled French, a little non-translated French)
Director – William Friedkin
Stars – Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider
When NYC cops Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Scheider) stumble upon a massive drug ring, they discover that it has a French connection.
Violence (although the fake blood is laughable), blue language, and very brief female nudity (butt only).
It was so dull that, at only an hour and forty minutes or so, it felt longer than several of the 3-hour-long movies I’ve seen.
The acting wasn’t especially impressive. At least, I don’t think it takes a whole lot of emoting to convey “tough-guy New York cop.” I feel like practically any grizzled guy in his 30s or 40s could’ve played Doyle or Russo.
The ending was so abrupt that I literally said out loud, “Wait, is it over?”
It was refreshing to see old-fashioned police work. There was no CSI. There were no magic leaps in logic. It was all observation, gut feeling, tough talking, ass-kicking, and blind dedication to the job. I think that’s what made people fall in love with this kind of movie to begin with.
I’m not especially enamored of action movies, but it was kind of fun to see one win Best Picture. After lots of dramas, a handful of comedies, a few musicals, and far too many period pieces, I liked that I got to turn my brain off and watch some car chases for once.
I always thought I’d seen this before, but after watching it now, I realized that what I must have seen previously was the sequel (“The French Connection II”). I didn’t like the sequel, and I didn’t especially like the original either. It just wasn’t very interesting.
I get why this probably appealed to audiences at the time. I think that “gritty crime drama” was fairly new back in the early 1970s. In the ensuing 40 years, the genre has been done to death. Now, what person hasn’t grown up watching them? And these days, they involve a lot more explosions, drama, and good-looking leads. It’s no wonder that an early incarnation of the genre seems a bit ho-hum to me.
Even so, I’ve suffered through far worse in the pursuit of this project. And looking at the 90s, I can see that there is far worse yet to come. So I wouldn’t say that this movie is necessarily bad. It’s simply not remarkable. There aren’t even any great quotes that stood out to me. I don’t think you should see it unless you’re fond of this particular genre.
I give the movie 2.75 stars.