By Marc S. Sanders

Popeye’s in town.

“You been picking yer feet in Poughkeepsie?”

One of the first gritty crime dramas.

With modern cinema offering huge bravura performances a la Daniel Day Lewis or Christoph Waltz these days, it’s any wonder that today’s generation of movie goers would be puzzled that Gene Hackman won the Best Actor Oscar for this film, The French Connection, which also happened to win Best Picture. His character has no big monologues, no huge crying scenes. In fact for most of the film, he’s slamming guys up against a wall or following them up and down the dirty Brooklyn streets. Yet, his accolades were nothing short of deserved.

Watch as Hackman’s Popeye Doyle gradually exhausts himself in pursuit of “Frog 1.” His character starts out as a thrill seeking detective only to find his limits pushed against a better cat and mouse player. Dialogue isn’t sophisticated here to show his state of mind, but rather his expressions offer everything. Simply look at his close up following the extensive car search (an incredibly satisfying scene for me as a viewer).

If that’s not enough, the car/foot chase through Brooklyn is one that still has not been matched. See how it was done before CGI.

A simple drug deal is plotted perfectly from Marseille to New York, and best of all, it is all true (well mostly).

What’s most curious is the film provides one of the oddest and most unforgiving endings in a film ever. Perhaps you’ll agree (????). But, remember…THAT IS HOW IT HAPPENED!!!!

This was a film from 1971 that was raw in its language, gritty in its setting, spiteful and unafraid of the image it would leave, and that is why it won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.

Bottom line, it would never have been made today. Never!

(Word of advice, ignore the sequel. A prime example of Hollywood shamelessly cashing in.)


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