Plot Summary: Part of the beauty of this film is that you come into it knowing next to nothing, and you can leave with only what you have gleaned from the shreds of plotline. Here's what you ought to know. Two cops, "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and partner run around New York City chasing after crime. They figure out a really hot lead and are looking to catch this ring of international drug smugglers. They're French (ie The French Connection). So, the plan is something like this: they'll sneak in the cocaine in the car of a famous French actor shooting a picture in America. The case stays stagnant and the two cops get pulled off the case. What will happen? Will they be able to make a bust? *Insert Suspense Here*
Review: The main cinematic value of this film is its emphasis on realism. Aside from the people getting shot, which has been done far more realistically since, the rest of the film is exactly the way that real life would have made it. The auto mechanic was the real guy who worked on the French Connection car, the hookers were real hookers, the French tv stars were real French tv stars. So, when scenes were hard to understand, that's real life. When you're born, no one just hands you in the first thirty seconds of life exactly who and what everything is. You have to determine and understand it from the context of the action within the film.
Now, this emphasis on realism, at times very powerful, also has a way of making parts of this film excessively boring. The director starts at the beginning by adding a lot of action to draw you into the plot line, but eventually, the film regresses back to the somewhat normal life of a New York City police officer on a really really boring stakeout. Also, the camera angles, while realistic to what someone at the scene might see, are not exactly condusive to the average moviegoer [translation: It's like Blair Witch sometimes, bring your Dramamine].
The acting is superb in that it doesn't feel like acting. Ever heard the song "Act Naturally"? That must've been the only instruction given to these actors. Gene Hackman doesn't play Popeye Doyle; Gene Hackman plays Gene Hackman being a hard-ass. The characters seem built for their time and space and their interactions, though minor, are well formed and designed. Especially, consider the scene where Popeye Doyle is chasing "Frog 1" on the subway. The only interaction that they have is a single wave through the window of the subway car, but in that brief second, all things are understood.
This film is superb, but in case I hadn't mentioned it enough earlier, a very subtle and somewhat disturbing film. Don't watch it with small children or in the lounge when people are trying to pick out their schedule/build their own major. You lose the intensity and drive of this unique picture.
See it for:
Rating: Four out of five stars