84. The French Connection (1971)

TheFrenchConnectionDirected by William Friedkin

Written by Ernest Tidyman

Produced By Philip D’Antoni and G. David Schire

Starring: Gene Hackman, Fernando del Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco and Marcel Bozuffi

Country: USA

Release Date: October 9, 1971


Why you should see it?

The French Connection is a dramatic Thrillr film based in the book “The French Connection” by Robin Moore. This book was written like a fictional potboiler, but based on a true story of a 1962 heroin bust in New York City.

This film puts the majority of contemporary action movies to shame, proving that action films can be smart. The French Connection has a convincing situation without the plot contrivances and predictable shoots. This is the first R rated movie to win an Academy Award for Best Movie.

PLOT

In Marseilles, an undercover detective is following Alain Charnier, a wealthy French criminal who runs the largest heroin-smuggling syndicate in the world. The policeman is assassinated by Charnier’s henchman, Pierre Nicoli.  Charnier plans to smuggle $32 million worth of heroin into the United States by hiding it in the car of his unsuspecting friend, French television personality Henri Devereaux.

In New York City, detectives Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo are conducting an undercover stakeout in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. After seeing a drug transaction take place in a bar, Cloudy goes in to make an arrest, but the suspect makes a break for it, cutting Cloudy on the arm with a knife. After catching up with their suspect and severely beating him, the detectives interrogate the man who reveals his drug connection.

Later, Popeye and Cloudy go out for drinks at the Copacabana, where Popeye notices Salvatore “Sal” Boca and his young wife Angie entertaining mob members involved in narcotics. They decide to tail the couple, and soon learn that the Bocas, who run a modest newsstand luncheonette, have criminal records: Sal for armed robbery and murder, and Angie for shoplifting. The detectives suspect that the Bocas, who frequent several nightclubs and drive expensive cars, are involved in some criminal operation. They soon establish a link between the Bocas and lawyer Joel Weinstock, who has connections in the narcotics underworld.

Soon after, Popeye learns from an informant that a major shipment of heroin will arrive in the New York area. The detectives convince their supervisor, Walt Simonson, to wiretap the Bocas’ phones, and they use several ruses to obtain additional information. Popeye and Cloudy are joined in the investigation by a federal agent named Mulderig. Popeye and Mulderig dislike each other based on having worked together in the past, with Mulderig holding Popeye responsible for the death of a policeman.

After Devereaux’s Lincoln Continental Mark III arrives in New York City, Weinstock’s chemist  tests a sample of the heroin and declares it the purest he has ever seen, establishing that the shipment could make as much as $32 million on a half-million dollar investment. Boca is impatient to make the purchase—reflecting Charnier’s desire to return to France as soon as possible—while Weinstock, with more experience in smuggling, urges patience, knowing Boca’s phone is tapped and that they are being investigated.

Charnier soon “makes” Popeye and realizes he has been observed since his arrival in New York. Nicoli offers to kill Popeye, but Charnier objects, knowing that Popeye would be replaced by another policeman. Nicoli insists, however, saying they will be back in France before a replacement is assigned.

Soon after, Nicoli attempts to assassinate Popeye from the roof of Doyle’s apartment complex but botches the job. Popeye chases after the fleeing killer, who boards an elevated train at the Bay 50th Street Station in Bensonhurst. Doyle commandeers a car and gives chase along Stillwell Avenue. On the train, Nicoli hijacks the train, holds the driver at gunpoint, and kills a policeman who tries to intervene. When the motorman passes out, the train reaches the end of the line and slams into another train, hurling the assassin against the glass window. Popeye arrives and sees the killer descending from the platform. When he sees Popeye, he turns to run but is shot dead by the weary detective.

After a lengthy stakeout, Popeye impounds Devereaux’s Lincoln town car and takes it apart piece by piece, searching for the drugs. When Cloudy notes that the vehicle’s shipping weight is 120 pounds over its listed manufacturer’s weight, they realize the drugs must still be in the car. They remove the rocker panels and discover the drugs concealed in the body of the vehicle. The police restore the car to its old condition and return it to Devereaux, who delivers the car to Charnier.

Charnier drives to an old factory on Wards Island to meet Weinstock and make the transaction. After Charnier has the rocker panels removed, Weinstock’s chemist tests one of the bags and confirms its quality. Charnier replaces the bags of drugs with the money, concealing it beneath the rocker panels of the Lincoln, which he will take back to France. With their transaction complete, Charnier and Sal drive off in the Lincoln, but soon they hit a roadblock with a large force of police led by Popeye, who playfully waves to Charnier. The police chase the Lincoln back to the old factory, where Sal is killed during a shootout with the police and most of the others surrender.

Charnier escapes into the old warehouse and Popeye follows after him, with Cloudy joining in the hunt. When Popeye sees a shadowy figure in the distance, he empties his revolver a split-second after shouting a warning. The man whom Popeye kills, however, is not Charnier but Mulderig. Undaunted, Popeye tells Cloudy that he will get Charnier. After reloading his gun, Popeye runs into another room, and a few seconds later, a single gunshot is heard

 

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