The French Connection is neo-noir police story inspired by real events, which follows the daily work of two NYC cops trailing and finally unveiling a drug smuggling operation from France (!) to the USA. (Did you know that slang for French people is/was “frogs”? So good! )
Life for a cop in this film is by no means glamorous, funny or heroic. It’s shitty, it’s monotonous, it has a lot of waiting time in the car, or out in the cold.
Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider are a winning pair of cops. Hackman is like a raging bull, volcanic and raw. Scheider is smoother. They’re both drinking in shady bars. They bring a ton of presence to the screen. W. Herzog says that 90% of a director’s job is done by casting well. So true in this case. Hackman’s character is larger than life, an obsessed hound, punching through anything that stands in his way.
Anxiety inducing avant-garde musical score, atonal jazz, strings, by Don Ellis.
Features one of cinema’s great chasing scenes, according to the critique at least, where Hackman drives, for real, at 100 km/h, chasing after a suspended train through Brooklyn, on an everything-in-camera terrific action and editing. He crashes in what where real cars with real people going to work; cinema at its craziest.
A genre breaker at the time. Two years later, Friedkin went on to the great Exorcist.