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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Small Potatoes

The French Connection

Plot Overview

Marseilles, 1971. A man after observing the ships at harbor ambles on home, stopping first at a pâtisserie to get a loaf of French bread. Outside his apartment he is assassinated by gunman Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi) who leaves the scene with a hunk of his bread.

Brooklyn, Xmas season. A sidewalk hot dog vendor outside the Oasis Bar & Grill takes off in hot pursuit after a man with a knife, aided by a corner Santa. It won't do to steal buns here in America. Willie (Alan Weeks) is subdued by narcotics detective “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider.) They are looking for crime tips.

Through a series of shakedowns, surveillance, and wire taps, they get solid leads on a major heroin shipment coming in from France. Their boss Walt Simon­son (Eddie Egan) doesn't trust Popeye's hunches any­more, the French hit man has his eye on Popeye (“Let me handle him”), the feds want to be connected to the bust, and the man whose car Popeye borrows to chase the bad guy (“Police emergency! I need your car”) wants to know, “When will I get it back?” After the chase is over, you can let out your breath.


Since the audience is privy to action on both sides of the pond, we are hoping the impatient boss will allow the two gum­shoes to follow through on their long tedious investi­gation, as happened once in a temple project, Zech. 4:8-9. But Simon­son is growing impatient with them for their piti­fully minor collars (“strictly small potatoes”), as can happen, (Zech. 4:10) “For who hath despised the day of small things?”

A couple scenes of Christmas spirit are the sole insights we get into the personal lives of both cops and robbers; the rest is taken up with the job(s). Those scenes must satisfy our curiosity à la Zech. 4:11-13. French crime lord Alain Charnier and his trophy wife Marie exchange (“Je t'aime”) tasteful Christmas presents (“Pour mois?”) with each other. Under­cover Santa grills black urchins on, “What do you want for Christmas?” These two gift-giver sources act in concert, the mommies and daddies doing the work to provide the gifts that Santa gets credit for. The ancient Hebrew formula of requiring two witnesses to establish a matter is reflected in two­some termin­ologies, such as, (Zech. 4:14) “Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.” The letter of the law flashed on the screen at the end demar­cating who all got caught and how much time they did is played out in the movie showing us the actual police work to get them.

Production Values

The French Connection” (1971) was based on a major drug case from the 1960s, updated a few years so the (many) street scenes didn't have to reflect an older period. It was directed by William Friedkin. The screen­play was written by Ernest Tidy­man (with assistance from Howard Hawks.) The dialogue was so natural, I'm figuring it was largely ad libbed. It was based on the book, The French Connection, by Robin Moore.

It stars Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, and Fernando Rey. This was Hackman's first major role, and we see him beginning to get his stride. He wasn't the first pick for casting, and his meek demeanor didn't work in his favor, so they had him accompany real street cops on their job for a month to get a feel for what it's like. I'd say it worked. They had a hard time casting the French­man, too, and finally settled on Fernando Rey. He's Spanish and his French wasn't so good, but who cares? He made one swell bon vivant villain. Marcel Bozzuffi made a truly chilling hit man. The New York char­acters seemed like they lived there. The film was too low budget to hire actors: all the low-lifes in the bar were off-duty police­men, but they really fit the part. The sarge in charge of the police garage was the sergeant who did the same in real life, and they did have the resources to do what we see being done to the brown Lincoln. Bill Hickman the stunt coordinator also played a federal agent, and he him­self drove the car for the major chase, because it was too dangerous to let the others do it—they all had wives and families.

A French handheld Arriflex camera was used extensively giving the film a jittery pseudo-documentary quality. That particular camera cut corners on its sound baffling, so they just used a higher back­ground noise level to mask the whir of its (relatively quiet) electric motor. The movie is rated R. It was a low budget, limited release film that exceeded expectations, so don't expect too much finesse, just a lot of realistic grittiness. The jazz-like score of Don Ellis helped enhance the mood.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“The French Connection” won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, which shows there's no accounting for taste. It is gritty, witty, and gripping, so if this is what you want in a picture, you'll get it in spades here. Politic­ally correct it is not.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.