Classic Film Review: The French Connection (1971)

And the Oscar Goes to:

The French Connection, 1971

Directed by: William Friedkin

Starring: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi


Two detectives, Det. Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman, Unforgiven) and Buddy ‘Cloudy’ Russo (Roy Scheider), begin an undercover investigation into a suspected narcotics deal organised by Salvatore ‘Sal’ Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and his French connections. The French connections involve a celebrity (whose cars can be moved anywhere due to his celebrity status).

If the judges on the Oscars in the 1980’s loved biopics and based-on-true-lives, then the 1970’s judges loved themselves a crime film (The French Connection won in 1971, The Godfather in 1972, The Sting in 1973 and The Godfather Part II in 1974), and, as good as the film is, it isn’t as good as The Godfather or The Sting. For a large part of the film the two detectives are staking out their prey and while it’s interesting, it is quite a slow build into the ultimate showdown, but that aside it’s still a very clever, funny and interesting film, even if, as with The Sting, I was waiting on a major twist at the end that never came (the ending is very strange, but considering it’s adapted from a non-fiction book it kind of makes sense, it just felt like it had a less than satisfying ending (which came almost out of nowhere, but after the three-hour epics that were The Godfather and The Godfather Part II and all the other two-hour-plus films, this one felt like it could have benefited from the extra time).

While I didn’t find anything particularly outstanding with this film (the acting is very fine in parts, and the writing and editing are like the top end of three stars but not quite enough for a four), everything on it is of a good quality. The 1970’s as a decade have been full of fantastic Oscar-winners and this unfortunately probably falls at the bottom of the pile. Nothing is wrong with it but it is overshadowed by others in its genre and style.

Certainly worth a watch; their tactics to catch the drug team is very interesting and the dynamic between all the characters is interesting (their trust on Popeye isn’t too high because of previous missions), and some of the jokes are really funny, and the attitudes of everyone really helps this film; it could have been much worse with bland characters, but their humour helps their personalities which helps our interesting in them.


Plot: * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¼


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