Sunday, 23 January 2011

French Connections 1 and 2 with Gene Hackman

As previously mentioned I watched the French Connection 2 once more in two parts reminding of those days when cinemas played continuous performances and if you wished you could enter when the theatre opened and stay until God Save the Queen and lights out at night.

While the second film is free standing it is a good sequel which benefits from remembering if not experiencing the original. The movie won several Academy awards including best film and Best Actor for Gene Hackman who plays a real life detective. Two narcotics detectives commence with the arrest and rough treatment of a small time suspect which leads them to focus on a couple who appear to have connections with local gangsters involved with drug trafficking from Mexico bank rolled by a lawyer. The trail leads to Paul Charnier, played by Fernando Rey and he French port of Marseilles. A features of both films is the unconventional approach of Hackman and that he becomes at loggerheads with colleagues and superiors. In this instance having dedicated that the drugs are a car beings sent to New York by a film star, without knowledge of what is secreted in its body, it is allowed to make the journey with the intention of locating the connections in the USA. Charnier escapes, various people are killed, including police and of those arrested we learn that only one of the organisers gets away without serving prison time, another a reduced sentence and another four years. Hackman and the colleagues who works closely with him are transferred out of the narcotics division. The film brought to public attention the nature of international drug trafficking and its funding, the risks faced by the law enforcers and the difficulties they face while working within the system. The films marked the start of the prolonged car chase

French Connection 2 was distributed in 1975 four years after the original and sees Hackman sent to Marseilles unknowingly as bait to capture Charnier much against the instincts of the local police who provide him with a desk and one on a stairway outside the toilets. The rough and always ready for anything cop struggles with the language and culture and being under scrutiny of the local force and day. He gives his minders slip and seeing Charnier gets captured by his gang made into a drug addict before being dumped back in the police yard. Knowing that if he matter is reported it will lead to Charnier beings sent home and discharged the wreck he has become Charnier arranged for him to overcome the condition in secret. However no sooner does he recover than he goes off again and finding where he was held burns the bar/brothel down with a view to smoke out the residents until he finds someone to torture and lead him the boss.

On one hand officially he is then hep under tight supervision before being sent home the local Inspector teams up and their efforts leads to finding drugs being hidden in the lower part of a ship in dry dock. The dock is flooded by the gang in their successful effort to escape and Hackman saves the life of the Inspector who now owes him and agrees to a stake out on the ship as they believe the captain is yet to be paid and will break cover before the ship is due to sail. Their patience pays off and the Captain makes a call and then takes a tourist ferry from the port into the centre of town where before leaving he exchanges and shoulder bad with another passenger.

While the surveillance team keep contact with the man who delivered the money, it is assume the captain is arrested and his Dutch registered ship impounded. The man takes his time returning to the base where we have already seen the drugs being into can of the soup with a hidden compartment in a very professional way before being shipped to the USA. The team arrives before wok is complete and there is a great shoot out in which all the villains are captured with the exceptions of Charnier who evades Hackman in a long sequence involving street cars and then as Charnier takes to his yacht Hackman follows him exhausted and likely to have a heart attack as he climbs and clambers along the port back to get ahead of the vessel. Thinking that he has escape Charnier comes to the surface from he cabin where he has hidden only to be shot and killed as he passes Hackman. While there is an inevitability about the ending the film is effective in carrying forward the engaging intensity of the original.

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