The French Connection wasn’t next in the AFI queue, but, earlier today when I heard that Roy Scheider had died, I decided to watch it anyway to honor the man.
A thoroughly entertaining film, but I’m a bit mystified as to how it wound up with the 1971 “Motion Picture of the Year” Oscar, but less inclusion (albeit just barely) on the AFI 100 list. Apparently it is famous for its “renowned car chase scene” (as the back of the DVD calls it), but it was bound to have at least one given that 50% of this movie involves one person following another. Seriously: there are cops stealthily tailing suspects on foot, cops running full-bore after suspects, cops slowly trolling behind suspects by vehicle, cops barreling after suspects at breakneck speeds, etc. At one point in the film there are two chases going on simultaneously: a security guard saunters after a suspect inside an elevated train, and, at street level, Gene Hackman races after the train in his automobile. It’s, like, they had so many chases slated for the film that they had to start scheduling them concurrently.
Anyway, none of this detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. I’m a sucker for 70′s-era stories set in inner-city America (see also: Rocky), and The French Connection illustrates why: the combination of grainy film-stock, openness about racial tensions, and devotion to method acting make them seem more authentic–even when they are big-budget and largely preposterous thrillers such as this one. 8/10, and RIP Roy Scheider.