The French Connection Blu-ray Review

THE FRENCH CONNECTION is a masterfully gritty cop drama about two officers that don’t stop until they get their man.  Full of intensely compelling police surveillance and one the most memorable chase sequences in film history, THE FRENCH CONNECTION is a classic that should be seen by all film lovers.

Gene Hackman in The French Connection

Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) are a couple of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau.  After a rough day, the two get a drink at the pub where they notice possible shady activity going down.  On a hunch the two do some heavy surveillance that leads them to a large drug smuggling shipment from France.

At the top of the chain is the very professional, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) a clever high class french drug king.  Using a famous French actor to transport the drugs, his dealings go relatively unnoticed.  Charnier is smart and sophisticated when it comes to business and seems to be fully aware of every move Doyle and Russo make, keeping himself one step ahead.

Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider in The French Connection

One aspect that makes THE FRENCH CONNECTION so successful are the great characters, specifically from our two leads.   Hard-nosed, bigoted and short-tempered, Gene Hackman (SUPERMAN) plays Doyle with unwavering conviction.  Doyle’s dedication to catching the bad guys, crosses the line to obsessively narrow minded.  He wants to win and will sacrifice anything to catch his man.  Roy Scheider (JAWS) plays Russo, the detective with a voice of reason.  While that may sound like a more passive character, Russo is anything but, still fighting and backing his partner every step of the way.  Few partners could reign in the chaos that is Doyle, but Scheider plays Russo with the perfect balance of edge and understanding.  Hackman and Scheider are the exact actors for this perfect yet doomed partnership.

Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider in The French Connection

Director William Friedkin the mastermind behind THE EXORCIST and this years KILLER JOE, skillfully puts together a gripping sequence of the police tailing one criminal to the next until we are eventually left with Doyle following Charnier.  Using minimal dialogue and long camera shots through crowded NYC streets and subways, Friedkin creates a suspenseful reality uncommonly seen on screen.

Winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Gene Hackman, THE FRENCH CONNECTION received five Academy Awards in 1972 and was nominated for three others including Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Supporting Actor for Roy Scheider.  Widely considered one of the all time greatest films, THE FRENCH CONNECTION Ranks #70 on AFI’s top 100 movies.  The film may be dated as a whole, but the characters and specific sequences still hold up nicely today.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: (1080p, 1.85:1) The quality is evident the film was made in 1971, but 20th Century Fox does a nice job of presenting the clearest possible picture while remaining pure to the original.

Audio:  (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) A great sound that opens up during the action sequences.

Audio Commentary: Director William Friedkin gives a fantastic detailed commentary covering all aspects behind the scenes.  He clearly cares for this film as you will notice, he is involved in nearly every Blu-ray feature.

Audio Commentary:  Gene Hackman speaks for the first half of the film then Roy Scheider does the second half (starting with chapter 18).  Scheider’s is infinitely better so I would skip ahead to his.

Trivia Track: Little tidbits of information while watching the film.

Isolated Score Track: The option allows you to listen THE FRENCH CONNECTION’s musical score without the dialogue.

Deleted Scenes (12:12): Seven scenes with optional commentary.  Friedkin gives an insightful introduction and reasons as to why he filmed them and why they are no longer in THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

Anatomy of a Chase (20:23): The director reminisces about the scene as he walks us through the location of the filming with the producer.

Gene Hackman in The French Connection

Hackman on Doyle (10:52): Hackman talks about the role and the film.

Friedkin and Grosso Remember the Real French Connection (19:16): The two discuss the differences and similarities from the real life events that inspired the film.

Scene of the Crime (5:17): The director talks with actor and police officer Randy Jurgensen about making a specific scene.

Cop Jazz: The Music of Don Ellis (10:07): The composer talks about the musical score in THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

Rogue Cop: The Noir Connection (13:50): This looks at the artistic choices of making THE FRENCH CONNECTION with elements of Film Noir.

Making the Connection: The Untold Stories of The French Connection (56:35): A Fox Movie Channel presentation of Officer Sonny Grosso and the connection between the real case and the film.

OVERALL 3.5
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