Popeye's Hooked on the Bad Stuff

Gene Hackman in French Connection II (1975)

After he got away "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) is sent to Marseille to find Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) not that the French police appear to be keen on having Doyle crashing around on their turf. But whilst roaming around the streets of Marseille Doyle finds himself kidnapped by some of Charnier's men who take him to a hotel and get him addicted to Heroin. When they eventually let him go, drugged to his eyeballs and dumped outside the Marseille police station the French police sets about putting Doyle through cold turkey in a holding cell in order to save his career.

I wasn't a fan of the first "French Connection" and struggled to see why so many felt it was a classic. Ironically I actually prefer the follow up, "French Connection II", as it is a lot more watchable with less focus on the style which dominated the first movie. Although having said that once again I find the substance is not so much lacking but stretched out so thinly that I have seen snails move quicker than the drama in this sequel.

The trouble is for the first 40 minutes we watch as Doyle rocks up in Marseille, obviously a fish out of water when it comes to French customs and unable to speak the lingo. And of course Doyle's bull in a china shop approach to doing things doesn't sit comfortably with the French police. But that is it, we watch Doyle looking extremely out of place in his coat and hat walking around Marseille, trailed by two guys. Then for the next 40 minutes or so we watch as first Doyle is turned into a drug addict and then put through cold turkey in a prison cell which is powerful but it goes on and on and on to the point it feels like it is forcing the point, the emotion which Doyle feels having been turned in to a drug addict.

And whilst I won't reveal what follows it doesn't get any better for me. The thing is that as I said the style this time around isn't so intrusive and it makes "French Connection II" a lot easier to get into and to be honest follow. If only they had sped things up a bit the impact of it all as in Doyle's realisation of what is going on any why he was really sent to France would have had a much greater impact.

What this all boils down to is that personally I prefer "French Connection II" as the styling didn't destroy the movie but the dragging out of a slim storyline nearly did.

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