Seeing Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider on screen together isn’t something I ever realised I could so desperately want, but here we are. The French Connection, a defining, gritty movie from the 1970s brings the two together in tremendous fashion.
Possibly the greatest part of The French Connection is its soundtrack. That blaring, basic and menacing tone to the introduction of the film sets the scene so perfectly well. Comparing well with Gene Hackman’s brutal and career defining performance, the tone of the film is its most promising and exciting piece.
Building on this nicely is some intense dialogue between Hackman and Scheider, a defining on screen duo that would rival Redford/Hoffman in their importance and chemistry together. Although the film focuses more on the solo performance of Hackman, it’s obvious to see the impact that Scheider makes in his supporting role. Scheider is great, more of the straight man counterpart to the rebellious Hackman. The two work great in contrast to one another, making what could’ve been rather dull scenes into something so much more enjoyable.
The French Connection is responsible for some of cinemas best remembered scenes and most reused tropes. Every aspect of the train station scene, in which Doyle (Hackman) and the sinister Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) play a tense game of cat and mouse, is perfect. Rey’s performance is a much quieter, albeit important performance than Hackman, who is often loud, verbose and otherwise brilliant. His finale chase scene in the car alongside the train is tremendous also.
But that’s expected really, isn’t it? Hackman for some time was the gold standard of cinema. His roles in The Conversation, Superman and his later work with Wes Anderson in The Royal Tenenbaums is what makes him such a solid performer. This is the pinnacle of his work though, by far the most interesting and rewarding role Hackman ever gave. From outlandish breakdowns, intense chase sequences and a genuine emotional connection to some small portions.
These scenes connect together amazingly well, providing the movie with an unexpectedly strong pace that is fundamental to the success of the film. William Freidkin’s excellent direction is a merit in itself, with his focus on more revered and unique shots serving the film extremely well.
By all means is The French Connection a must see for fans of cinema. A truly great cat and mouse tale that only gets stronger as the runtime goes on. Hackman’s energy and Charnier’s sinister motif portray a superb chemistry that fuels the tension held throughout the movie. Very much the epitome of a 70s thriller, The French Connection is dark, gloomy, and a pinnacle of cinema.