French Connection (1971)

“Summer of Film #3 of 100”:
This movie has a lot going for it; unfortunately it is not enough. With tremendous visuals and solid action sequences director William Friedkin creates a rare police procedural that should have impressed me a lot more than it did. Unfortunately, the movie has very little else to rest on- and since it sells does not sell itself as a spectacle it has to sell itself on drama and that is where it fails. There is no tension (except for two scenes) and the drug plot that drives policeman Popeye (Gene Hackman) is akin to something out of a TV movie.

The two scenes that do succeed are a virtuoso chase scene where Hackman chases a man on a train across town; and a the beginning of the climax. I say ‘beginning’ because there is no end. The movie ends in an abrupt scene that explains little and is a poor pay-off for a well set up climax.

The movie is a rare treasure in one regard, though. It is a traditional police procedural like few others. It treats police work like it is- long nights staking out, following leads, following suspects, watching for suspicious activity. The non-glamorous real police work that lends more tension to the movie than a thousand spectacles in the run-of-the-mill actioner. For that alone, French Connection is a classic and a rare treasure.


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