The French Connection (1971)

For the last seven years, I have used this blog to praise and complain about movies. Sometimes I will watch a movie and sit there the entire time wondering how on Earth a production company thought this particular story was a good idea and got behind its release. Now, as I make my way through Best Picture winners, my focus is changing in a sense; why did these particular films walk away with such an honour?

The French Connection is a case in point. Stripped down to its bare storyline, this is nothing more than a glorified cop story, and a terrible one at that. Gene Hackman is Popeye Doyle, one of the most reckless cops you’ll ever see on the big screen. Somehow Hackman won the Academy Award for Best Actor with this performance. It makes little to no sense to me since he is already known in the department for the murder of a cop, then before the end, he shots another cop in cold blood. He is a pain for his narcotics department because he doesn’t care about anything or anyone. 

Popeye has a hunch about this drug deal and runs wild on the streets of New York trying to prove his case, only to save the day in the film’s final 15 minutes. I was on board with his stakeout procedures and had a chuckle when he chased the bad guy into the subway, and they hopped on and off the train for about 10 minutes to add some humour to a rather boring cop movie. 

At the end of the day, if you’ve seen any movie about cops tracking down bad guys, whether it is something like Bad Boys or We Own the Night to 21 Bridges, they are all the same. Well, this film doesn’t have any dirty cops in it, but you get my point. Cops always act above the law, and The French Connection doesn’t shy away from it.

There was absolutely nothing special about this film, and I will forever wonder how it won so many awards. People will point out the story, which wasn’t overly unique in any way. It was just another international drug deal gone sour. Some could praise Hackman’s acting, which I will admit was good, but what did he have to portray such a reckless cop. He could have been normal, and the story would still be engaging. 

I understood in 1971, this story, concept, and performance may have been worthy of all the celebration. However, upon viewing the film in 2021, this is nothing but an average cop using his power and ego to go crazy to solve a case that may or may not be real. I honestly don’t think I could watch this film again, yet I will track The French Connection II because. 3/10 


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