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Loosely based on Robin Moore's true story of the largest U.S. drug bust at the time, this gritty cops-and-robbers thriller follows the exploits of two hard-boiled narcotics cops, "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider). They are trying to clean up the petty crims, pimps, and pushers amongst the sidewalks and decaying buildings of New York City when they stumble upon a narcotics smuggling ring headed by a French crime boss. A deadly cat and mouse game ensues, culminating in one of the most frenetic car chases ever put to film.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Winning five Academy Awards in 1972 for best actor (Gene Hackman), best director, best screenplay, best editing and best picture, The French Connection is thought of as one of the most egregious best pictures winners ever - especially considering its competition. But Oscar winner or not, no-one can deny it is a bona-fide classic. It broke all the rules - from a script that no-one wanted to a cast that no-one liked to an infamous car chase sequence that was both illegal and lethal. It is filmmaking at its raw best.

Lots of dialogue free visuals turn on a dime from drawn-out to action-packed, and performances are all exceptional, especially from then newcomer Hackman, who never felt comfortable with his racist character. The script is taut and loaded with New York-isms, and the directing is utterly fearless. Thankfully, 20th Century Fox has given The French Connection it's due on DVD, with this 2-disc set packed with quality extras.

It reveals the reality of it all. Brash Director William Friedkin uses handheld cameras, average looking people and gritty, grimy New York neighbourhoods to create one of the most urban looking, sounding and feeling films ever made. It shows how "other movies looked like movies. This looked like New York," as explained in the DVD's 53-minute BBC documentary "The Poughkeepsie Shuffle". It makes watching the film a maddening experience, as Friedkin lets the chaos of New York play out at peak hour with its incessant throng of sirens and car horns. The documentary also recalls the dangerous kamikaze tactics used to get that famous car chase sequence down on film - in one heart-stopping take!

A little less interesting is the "Making the Connection" documentary. Hosted by real life "Buddy Russo" Sonny Russo, it's a more detailed, enlightening account of the true story behind the famous bust. There's plenty of praise for the controversial cop Eddie Egan, who Hackman would come play even though the two couldn't stand each other on set. It sometimes goes over previously covered ground, but it does surprisingly reveal how Hackman "wasn't our first choice," says Friedkin. "He wasn't even our tenth choice!" (do we think Jackie Gleason could have played Popeye?) Friedkin's audio commentary attests that he was always more interested in the story's milieu than the real events that inspired it. On a separate commentary, Hackman explains how he was plucked from obscurity for what would become his career breaking role, and (with Schneider) explains how they created their characters; the racist, sexist, law-breaking urban cops that plenty more would be based on (Dirty Harry, anyone?) With deleted scenes and still galleries, this is DVD how it should be.

Published February 28, 2002

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia



CAST: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel

DIRECTOR: William Friedkin

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2 disc Set, 16:9
Subtitles: Czech, Norwegian, Danish, Polish, Finnish, Portuguese, Hebrew,
Swedish, Hungarian, Icelandic and Turkish

Disc 1:
Audio Commentary By Director William Friedkin; Audio Commentary By Cast Members; Theatrical Trailer; Audio: English 5.1

Disc 2:
Deleted Scenes; BBC Documentary: "The Poughkeepsie Shuffle"; Documentary "Making the Connection"; Featurette; Theatrical Trailer; Picture Galleries; Audio: English 2.0 Surround

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 13, 2002

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