I knew, vaguely, that The French Connection had a famous chase scene in it, and now that I’ve seen the movie, I see that that fame is well-deserved. This is a hugely influential cat-and-mouse crime movie, depicting New York City at its dirtiest and most corrupt.
From the first scene, we’re told not to fully empathize with our heroes — Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider — as we see them abusing suspects, extracting false confessions, and letting their hunches trump common sense. And yet, as it turns out, Hackman has a good hunch about an international heroin-smuggling ring, and will go to any means necessary to bust it.
Although I’ve yet to see his most famous role, in The Conversation, this is my favorite Hackman performance to date, and he’s backed up by a fine supporting cast, particularly Fernando Rey as the big bad Alain Charnier. Although I loved the famous chase scene and the very end of the movie (no spoilers!), I wish the script had delved a little deeper into Hackman and Scheider’s characters, to give some shading around why they do the things they do other than because it’s their jobs. Nevertheless, recommended. ★★★½