horror and science fiction DVD and movie reviews and previews from curledupdvd.com - curled up with a good dvd
Blu-ray reviews and previews from curledupdvd.com - curled up with a good dvd
DVD reviews, previews and info - blu-ray
  action movies on DVD
  animation on DVD
  art house and international / foreign language films on DVD
  comedies on DVD
  documentaries on DVD
  dramas on DVD
  children's and family DVDs
  horror and sci-fi on DVD
  suspense on DVD
  television series on DVD
  Blu-ray DVD reviews


French Connection II - Blu-ray DVD / action DVD review
FRENCH CONNECTION II Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 stars
Actors: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Bernard Fresson, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Philippe Léotard
Director: John Frankenheimer Distributor: 20th Century Fox
DVD release: 24 February 2009 Runtime: 119 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital Mono - Spanish, French), Subtitles (English, Spanish), Closed captioned, A Conversation with Gene Hackman, Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems, Commentary by Gene Hackman and Producer Robert Rosen, Commentary by dir. John Frankenheimer, "Frankenheimer: In Focus," Isolated score track (dts MA), Still galleries

One of the best, and underappreciated, movies ever made is the crime drama The French Connection. Even though it won Best Picture of 1971, its legendary car chase sequence has somewhat overshadowed the rest of the film - and director William Friedkin is now best known for the next film he made, the infamous The Exorcist, than for his fine Oscar-winning work in the first FC.

The original is a seminal film. Nearly all gritty, realistic cop dramas on film and TV, including FX's The Shield, owe a debt to The French Connection. The film was hugely influential both in its use of on-location filmmaking (the gritty backstreets and alleys of lower Manhattan are practically a costar of the film) and the introduction of the anti-hero; Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle - snarly, stubborn, racist, yet relentless - was despicable, yet also a compelling protagonist to follow.

The original film concludes with a major international heroin buy being busted, and the kingpin of the trade (Fernando Rey) escaping. In French Connection II, Hackman returns as Popeye. Still determined to bring down the kingpin (whom he refers to as "Frog 1"), Doyle follows him to Marseilles, France. Doyle is instead kidnapped by Frog 1 and forced to become a junkie himself.

While French Connection II has some powerful moments, the original is clearly the superior film. The sequel is hampered by two major problems:
  1. Hackman's performance is good but not as strong as in the original. Popeye is even more dislikeable in the sequel and not nearly as compelling. Though the film attempts to play the "fish out of water" angle for some humor, Popeye's abrasiveness, refusal to learn the language, and contempt for any and all things not New York becomes grating. In short, he's a jerk.
  2. The middle of the film is weighed down by the lengthy torture sequence where Doyle is kidnapped and forced over weeks to become a junkie. When set free by his captors, he is forced to quit cold-turkey by the police. A long monologue Doyle has with his French superior while he endures withdrawal pains is meant to be the centerpiece of Hackman's performance, but again, his constant insults of anything that is not American means he doesn't earn as much sympathy and support from the audience as he should.
The film picks up near the end with two strong action sequences, one involving the flooding of the holding dock for a dry-docked ship, the second an exciting chase on foot between Doyle and the kingpin. Still, while the sequel is worth a look, it is no match for the original film.

Extras for the Blu-ray:
  • As expected, the print quality is quite clear for a 32-year-old film.
  • Two commentary tracks: One with the late director Frankenheimer, the other with producer Robert Rosen and star Hackman
  • "A Conversation with Gene Hackman"
  • D-Box motion control systems
  • Still galleries
  buy this DVD now or browse millions of other great products at amazon.com
reviewed by Trent Daniel
    action | animation | art house/international | comedy | documentary | drama | family | horror/sci-fi | suspense | television    
    browse DVDs alphabetical by title    
    contact | home