Fighting to stem the flow of hard drugs onto the streets of New York, detectives James 'Popeye' Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider), will use just about any method to get the job done. Beating and intimidating informants, the Brooklyn-based duo get wind of a major drug smuggling scheme linked to the local mob. Masterminded by suave Frenchman Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), this well-organised international operation has the potential to bring huge quantities of heroin into the Big Apple, adding to the city's chronic drug problem. Determined to bring Charnier down, Popeye and Russo turn the New York underworld upside down as they try to infiltrate the operation, unaware of the terrible lengths their target will go to in order to protect his deadly business.
The seminal urban crime thriller, William Friedkin's down and dirty trawl through the seamier side of law enforcement continues to shock, compel and thrill.
Based on Robin Moore's remarkable non-fiction account of the real life drug bust, the film's two protagonists are both inspired by real cops, making their methods that much more alarming. Hackman won an Oscar for his portrayal of the pugnacious Popeye, the range of emotions his character elicits in viewers - from admiration to disgust and everything in between - being testament to not only the actor's terse talent, but also Friedkin's commitment to properly muddying the waters of morality.
The result is a complex, brutal, utterly engrossing film that takes viewers on a vivid journey into the bowels of a city ravaged by a hard drug epidemic. The winner of a total of five Oscars, it's also impossible to talk about The French Connection without mentioning the bonerattling car chase that sees Popeye pursuing an elevated subway train, a scene that's influence can still be seen today in everything from We Own the Night to the The Bourne Ultimatum.