Review: FRENCH CONNECTION II (1975) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010



Five years after the critically-acclaimed THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) made Gene Hackman a superstar as well as putting young director William Friedkin into one of the most Hollywood's most-wanted lists and not to forget it's a memorable winner of 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, it's inevitable to see how the follow-up manages to top up the original tough crime drama in the first place. 

But a word of warning, though: Anyone who is expecting the same gritty mayhem of the original will be surprised to see how subdued the sequel turns out to be. 

Picking up exactly where the first film has left off, Popeye Doyle (Hackman) is hellbent to locate and arrest Charnier (Fernando Rey), the drugs mastermind who got away back in New York. He is now sent to Marseilles where he received information Charnier is reportedly hiding there. Upon his arrival, Doyle is treated with little respect by French policeman-in-charge Barthelemy (Bernard Fresson), who is particularly despised Doyle's bad-mannered ways of doing things. Basically Doyle looks completely like an idiot in a place he does not understand, especially how he struggles to speak French language which proves more difficult as time goes by. And to make things worst, he does not know he's actually being used as a bait by the French policemen to lure Charnier into the trap. Trouble arrives when Doyle decided to take matters at his own hands without the French policemen's help, only to be kidnapped by Charnier's henchmen. He is taken to a sleazy hotel where he is forced to become a heroin addict, in favor he will tell everything he knows about the "French connection". He becomes totally hopeless and later being dumped in front of the police station. Suffering from a near-death experience, he is fortunate enough to be rescued by Barthelemy and his fellow colleagues where he is getting an urgent, medical treatment. After days of kicking out his heroin habit, Doyle is finally up and running and all determined to get Charnier and his henchmen once and for all. 

Replacing original director William Friedkin, is veteran John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) who is no stranger for helming a suspense thriller. The good thing about this sequel is how Frankenheimer smart enough not to repeat the same formula. Here, he delves deeper into Gene Hackman's iconic character of the never-gives-a-damn Popeye Doyle inside out and further establishing him more than just a gritty cop who does thing in the meanest way possible. 

Clearly this is Hackman's one-man show all the way and he proves his worth why he so deservedly for that memorable Best Actor win in the 1971 original. He is electrifying and at the same time, he can be funny as well particularly the way how he deal with his everyday routine struggling to fit himself into a foreign place well like the hilarious scene where he has trouble ordering a Scotch from a French bartender. 

But his most memorable moment turned out to be the sequences which sees him dealing with his withdrawal from heroin is genuinely frightening and realistic look at the effects of hard drugs. 

Too bad the rest of the supporting actors are surprisingly forgettable, even Fernando Rey who is more of a caricature this time around. 

Perhaps the biggest mistake Frankenheimer shouldn't have done is not toning down the film's gritty approach in favor for more leisurely-paced structure that no doubt testing one's patience. 

Thankfully the film is redeemed with an equally exhilarating finale in a footchase between Doyle and Charnier.

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