Thursday, June 13, 2013

The French Connection (1971)

A pair of NYC Narcotics Officers (Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider) are hot on the trail of an international drug smuggling ring based out of France.

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I can't speak for international audiences, but I can firmly say without a doubt that American audiences LOVE procedurals. Just look at prime-time television. Off the top of my head there's CSI, NCIS, Law & Order and Criminal Minds, not to mention all of their imitators and spin-offs. There's just something addicting about following a case beat by beat, letting the evidence pile up until it's just the right time to take down the bad guy. It speaks to a deep part of all of us. A hunger for justice? A desire to see wrongs righted? Or maybe it's something deeper than that. 

Just as a horror film allows us the thrill of being pursued/chased from the safety of a darkened theater, the procedural allows us to be the hunter. It's this primal desire that is propelling Popeye Doyle through The French Connection's narrative. And in the hands of screenwriter Ernest Tidyman and director William Friedkin we are allowed to see our love of the chase for what it truly is. We can delude ourselves with talk of justice and duty, but there really is no moral justification for any of this. This a blood-lust pure and simple. The chase will continue forever and God help anyone who gets in our way.

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