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original title: The French Connection
duration: 1h 44min
tags: In the great tradition of American thrillers
keywords: bagman, triggerman, ankleholster, fingerman, heroin, policeprocedural, drugsmuggling, organizedcrime, mafiaboss, crimeboss, drugdeal, toughguy, narcoticsinvestigation, drugring, basedontruestory, fren
However there have been a number of movies which I enjoyed more after a second viewing including Batman Begins, Alien and Point Break. So I finally decided I would give The French Connection another go.
I will admit it was much better than my first viewing. However I do not think this is a good movie, let alone a classic. There was a storyline which was OK although it did get a bit disjointed at times. Gene Hackman did a good job in his role as well. There was no score for the movie which would have made it more intense. There was of course still little action and I was still a bit underwhelmed by the car chase.
While it is something you can watch if you've got nothing else to do, for me it does not qualify as a great movie. My opinion is you'd be better off watching Dirty Harry released the same year or Ronin which I think are far better movies. Apparently William Friedkin was convinced that "The French Connection" was headed for disaster all the way through filming. But while conceding that the final result isn't entirely a rout, I would be cautious about the hyperbole that surrounds it.
The best thing about the film is its raw, ravaged look. Everything is eroded, decayed, overused - the cities, the people and - perhaps a point of conjecture - the language that they use. One could go even farther surmise that the formulaic exchanges and clich辿d situations that the film portrays are a critique of a worn-out, bankrupt society, but I'm not willing to let Friedkin completely off the hook.
Because as others have pointed out, many of the elements so lauded in "The French Connection" were done earlier - and better - elsewhere. "Bullitt" in particular springs to mind as the model for the slowing-moving, moody European-style of police thriller that concerns itself with more than just the cops-and-robbers merry-go-round (another example would be Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samurai"). But whereas Bullitt's silences and long, atmospheric takes bespeak classical poise and existential angst, TFC's leave me wondering whether it's deliberately scrappy or simply badly edited. In any case, for those who think that the name "The French connection" hints at homage to the nouvelle vague, prepare to be mildly disappointed.
In terms of the acting I must admit that I found Gene Hackman competent and workmanlike: he really knows how to play unpleasant, loudmouthed, belligerent, hard-drinking (insert additional epithets as required) types. But the eulogies heaped on the role seem bizarre considering that you never really get beyond the fact that "Popeye" is a nasty, bigoted gun-happy cop. As for the other "characters" it's difficult to say much; the figures are ciphers and I for one didn't make too much of an emotional investment in what happened to them.
It's probably worth seeing this film for the great footage of New York and the gritty camera-work, but beneath the surface the scaffolding is very bare in terms of plot and characterisation. Incoherent, visually impressive, and unlikeable. Producer and screenwriter have added enough fictional flesh to provide director William Friedkin and his overall topnotch cast with plenty of material, and they make the most of it. The word "frog" is often used as a derogatory term for someone of French descent. When Popeye refers to Charnier as "Frog One," he's trying to distinguish Charnier from his partner, Pierre Nicoli. It can also be a way to show Popeye's generally bigoted attitude. He's deliberately trying to confuse Willy into making a confession. Poughkeepsie is a small city about 80 miles north of New York on the Hudson River. Willy may have a drug connection up there that buys product from him and sells it in that region. His line, which is somewhere along the lines of "when was the last time you picked your feet in Poughkeepsie" is basically nonsense. Repeating it and variations of it including only Poughkeepsie or just when the person has last "picked their feet", over and over in a threatening manner, is a tactic meant to bewilder the subject. While the criminal is desperately trying to figure out what this sentence is a code for, the interrogators intersperse the badgering with actual questions like "who's your connection Willie, what's his name!?" and "is it Joe the barber?" The totally confused criminal up against the wall, doesn't know what this Poughkeepsie thing is, but it sounds bad and he sure didn't do it. So to take the questioning away from this mysterious act the police think he's performed, that must be pretty terrible, Willie admits to what they really want to know out of fear. This tactic/phrase was actually developed by the character that Gene Hackman played, in real life (the movie is loosely based on a true story). Source: French Connection Commentary extra found in the DVD version of the movie. They more than likely bought Devereaux a new car exactly like the old one. Putting the car back together after spending several hours tearing it apart would have taken at least twice as long, plus there was the actual damage they caused to the interior while ripping out upholstery, carpeting & other trim. From there it'd be a simple matter of buying a new Lincoln, pulling out the rocker panels in that one & stashing the heroin & transferring the license plates to it.
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