FrenchConnection1Gripping, taut, and expertly paced, William Friedkin’s The French Connection is the police-bust genre at the top of its game, particularly the flawlessly executed second half. Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman), with help from his partner-in-crime-fighting Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider), obsessively pursue the French drug kingpin Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey of That Obscure Object of Desire—and many other Buñuel films—fame), all while their superiors gradually lose interest in the case, convinced that Doyle’s fixation on the $500K heroin deal is misguided, and that it must have already gone down if it was happening at all. The first hour, which establishes Doyle’s extraordinary focus on his job and his cat-and-mouse game with Charnier, is quite good, but The French Connection really picks up steam when Doyle is nearly murdered by a sniper in a building courtyard and begins a wildly tense chase scene that involves following the assassin’s subway by car. Doyle’s single-minded conviction that he can still stop the deal from happening is on full display in the auto shop sequence, where he and a few fellow officers tear a suspected dirty car completely apart. The sound editing, one of The French Connection‘s greatest strengths, is exceptional in the aforementioned scene: the ripping of car seats and tearing of dashboards amidst complete silence really adds to the mounting nerves. Hackman is superb, but it’s Rey who smoothly steals the show—his coastal meeting places, elegant dress, table manners, & stride, and lightning-quick mind leave no doubt in the viewer’s mind that this elderly man is completely capable of everything Doyle suspects. And the ending, which momentarily threatens to be superfluous before the final moment and subsequent epilogue throw everything into clear focus, is pitch-perfect. Exciting cinema that’s not to be missed by those in search of a fast-paced, well-crafted thriller.

76/100