The French Connection ★★★★

A gritty cop-film loosely based on real events, which (along with The Exorcist) established William Friedkin as one of the defining filmmakers of the 'New Hollywood' era. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play two-nonsense police-detectives (Doyle and Buddy), who stumble upon a plot by a French drug syndicate to smuggle millions worth of heroin into the US.

In true Friedkin fashion, the build-up is slow but the narrative is as straight-forward as it gets, following Doyle and Buddy's investigation while switching rapidly between locations. Doyle is most certainly not a likeable guy either, he frequently boozes, oversleeps, breaks rules, and drops racial slurs, much to the displeasure of Buddy who comes off as much more honest and mellow. Hackman and Scheider's chemistry really makes them seem believable as determined but morally-different partners

It also deserves credit for how raw it feels at times, the grimy streets of early 70s NYC captured in all their glory. Now even though it's not strictly an action-thriller in the truest sense, there are some very impactful moments. Obviously I can't go on without mentioning the car chase (easily one of the best of it's time), as Doyle pursues a fleeing sniper who takes an entire subway train hostage. It's a real adrenaline-pumping scene that amazingly still holds up well.

There are some problems with it I can't overlook though. The camerawork is often very shaky and uneven, which I guess does fit the gritty nature, but I find it more headache-inducing than anything. The Don Ellis jazz/string music I can most certainly say I'm not a fan of either. It's not used often, but it just comes off as a loud (and somewhat unfitting) annoyance when it is. I feel like the entire film would have been better off without any music at all.

Maybe I don't love it as much as I'd like to, but it's still without a doubt one of the defining crime thrillers of the 70s, even if I do think Friedkin's done better. Maybe I'd be able to appreciate it even more if I hadn't watched in on the ugly over-saturated Blu-ray master I own, which is the only one that was sadly available to me. Still a great movie nevertheless.

8.5/10

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