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The French Connection Boxset (1971-75) Review

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This is the real-life story of mean streets of 1960s New York narcotics cop Eddie "Popeye" Egan and his partner, Sonny Grasso, who headed the biggest drugs bust in American history.

★★★★★

On the mean streets of 1960s New York, narcotics cop Eddie "Popeye" Egan and his partner, Sonny Grasso, became media stars when they headed the biggest drugs bust in American history; several years later, their story also made household names of director William Friedkin and actor Gene Hackman.

Shot on location to recreate a documentary mood, The French Connection is the kind of movie that major Hollywood studios wouldn't have the guts to make today.

Whether it's tailing suspects in the bitter cold, or chasing the L-train through busy civilian traffic, The French Connection's stamp of authenticity stands the test of time. The drama, like a real policeman's lot, is all about long periods of inactivity punctuated by moments of intense action.

The sequel - with John Frankenheimer at the helm and a purely fictional story - has none of the same inventiveness. Hackman rounds out the Popeye Doyle character, relishing scenes where he's forced onto dope before suffering cold turkey. It's ironic, given the French movies that inspired Friedkin, that the French crew working on the sequel render it as flat as an American TV cop show.

The drama of the first film is realistic as it consists of genuine dull moments punctuated by action. As for the second film, it's amazing that the French crew working on the sequel render it as flat as an American TV cop show.