I watch The French Connection (1971), every couple of years and I get a lot of strength from it. It’s easy to remember it as a classic, the more the film ages, the better it gets.
So, why is it so good? Well, the performances are brimming with energy. Hackman has never been better, Roy Scheider is good support and Fernando Rey is a very cool and equal match for both of them.
It’s based on a true story (that has implications in another film – American Gangster, set a few years later). Two cops, stumble upon a drug deal going down and do their best to stop it and catch the dealers. It’s a simple tale, but it has energy and attitude to burn.
The film is like a dart thrown towards a dartboard heading straight for the bullseye, it’s fast, tough and uncompromising. I’ve blogged before about my admiration for director William Friedkin and his work here is brilliant. The cutting is tight, the shooting (often handheld – and years ahead of it’s time) is brilliant. He keeps the actors in check and the film is like a wound up motor – suddenly shooting off with great wound-up energy.
There’s a couple of great sequences to watch – following Rey around New York, and the great suspense sequence on the subway where Rey gets the better of Hackman. I love the whole sequence with the French car; it’s cleverly played and messes with the audience expectations. Of course, there’s also the great car/train chase.
This is one of my favourite films, and a great piece of filmaking. The trailer is below and it gives a good sense of the hard boiled action.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He also works as a content writer for hire and as a UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on email@example.com or hire him on Peopleperhour