The French Connection (1971)

french connection poster 1971 movie academy award
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Gene Hackman, great car chase


Movie Info

Movie Name: The French Connection

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Drama

Release Date(s): October 9, 1971

MPAA Rating: R

french connection popeye doyle cloudy russo roy scheider gene hackman

We’re just a couple of honest cops…ok, we’re cops…maybe not that honest

James “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) get wind of a big heroin shipment from France and set out to catch the men planning it.  The line between criminals and the police begin to blur as the case gets deeper and deeper.  Popeye is not one to play by the rules, and breaking the rules might be the only way to bring in the big haul.

Directed by William Friedkin, The French Connection a fictionalized crime thriller based on the true events chronicalized in The French Connection:  A True Account of Cops, Narcotics, and International Conspiracy by Robin Moore in 1969.  The movie was a critical and financial success and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hackman), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing with nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Scheider), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound.  With the new rating system in place, The French Connection also is the first R-Rated film to win Best Picture (Midnight Cowboy was X-Rated when it was originally released but downgraded to an R-Rating over the years).

french connection gene hackman popeye doyle car chase

Rush hour just gets worse and worse

When The French Connection was released it was a bit of a shock.  It was a hard-boiled movie where cops are not always the good guys…something that was not explored as much at the time of the film.

It is interesting to watch as a period piece to see how cops operated at the time and were portrayed versus how they are portrayed now.  Popeye and Cloudy were based on real narcotics officers Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso who appear in the film as other characters, but by today’s standards, much of what Popeye and Cloudy get away with in the film would be considered police brutality…and get them fired instead of praised as heroes.  Though they are very good detectives, their tactics just are not in line with how detectives work in the modern world.  It is this idea that makes the film stand out as a bit of a change in society…better or worse.  The movie is great but with all the crime dramas on television, some  viewers might be a bit jaded to the story of drug smuggling and cops that push the edge of the law.  What made Popeye and Cloudy “good” cops in the movies would make them “bad” cops today (breaking rules and regulations, racial profiling, shoot first/ask question later, etc.).

french connection 1971 popeye doyle wave gene hackman

Do you pick your toes in Poughkeepsie?

Both Hackman and Scheider really just nail their characters.  It is too bad for Scheider that Popeye is such a standout in the film because in general, Hackman is what people remember…when Scheider himself also gave a stellar performance.  Both actors together turn what by today’s standard is a rather mundane storyline into a well crafted tale.

The most famous moment to come out of this movie (other than the cryptic “do you pick your feet in Poughkeepsie”) was the elevated train car chase in which Hackman chases a sniper on a hijacked train through Brooklyn.  The train cars used for the scene can still be seen at the New York Transit Museum.  You might simply think of The French Connection as “that car chase movie” but the whole film has that dirty ’70s look that gives it real substance…You feel like you are on these streets.

The French Connection might not be as shocking or thrilling as it was when it was released, but it still is a great film.  Come for Hackman’s performance and the car chase, but be sure to enjoy a very well-rounded cop movie that was ahead of its time. The French Connection was followed by a sequel French Connection II in 1975.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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