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"The French Connection" (1971) Starring Gene Hackman Dir. William Friedkin


William Friedkin’s 1971 film “The French Connection” is an action-thriller film that stars Gene Hackman as Detective Popeye Doyle, Fernando Rey as Alain Charier, Roy Scheider as Detective Buddy Russo and Tony Lo Bianco as Sal Boca. This film was mostly filmed in New York in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as on the New York City Subway system. The most thrilling scene was a chase between a hijacked subway train and Detective Doyle. Friedkin gave viewers a taste of what life was like in New York City back in 1971, when New York City was a dark and neglected place.


The prologue introduced two sides of the story between Detectives Doyle and Buddy from New York and Alain Charier and Henry from France. While Doyle and Buddy were out one night, they spotted Sal, who seemed very out of place that he was in, which raised their suspicions. Upon their encounter, the movie’s central theme was that Doyle and Buddy followed them around New York, suspecting they were committing crimes. Later on, Alain and Doyle were both at the Grand Central Subway Station, and Alain realized that Doyle was following him when Alain got off then Doyle got off then at the last minute, Alain got away and Doyle was left stranded at the station. When the train was leaving, Doyle ran and banged on the subway door and tried to open it up with his hands.


Following that encounter, another man tried to shoot at Doyle from a rooftop while he was walking around. Later on, the same man hijacked an (N) train because Doyle was chasing him. As a result, he was forced to take somebody’s car to chase the train down until he finally shot and killed the hijacker following the train’s crash. The scene continuously crosscut between the train running express and Doyle chasing the train under the elevated tracks to the crash site from the street. During the thrilling chase, Doyle drove like a maniac, where he swerved in and out of traffic and drove without stopping for a number of blocks, running through cars, pedestrians and street signs. On the other hand, the man on the subway was shooting everybody and hijacked the train at gunpoint until the operator passed out.


This film overall had a clear and concise central conflict and idea, but there was a lot of action that kept viewers guessing what will happen next. Additionally, the production team left New York’s environment how it would look like in that moment in time. During this time, New York was filled with decrepit subway trains, subway stations, general infrastructure and the cleanliness. There were lots of buildings that were decrepit, run down and often had graffiti painted on the walls. Additionally, there was garbage everywhere on the streets and that nothing has been cleaned for a long time, giving a viewer a clear perspective of New York in 1971. The ending of the movie had no resolution which was likely intentional. As a result of the intention, a sequel was released four years later as “The French Connection II” where the story continues.

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