The Best That Could Be Matched With the Original
Bud | Seminole, Texas, USA | 02/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Considering the enigmatic ending of the Oscar-winning "The French Connection," a sequel seemed obligatory. But four years later, it's likely that no one was expecting the harrowing twist that came with the follow-up's plot.
This time directed by John Frankenheimer, gruff, foul-mouthed, brute narcotics officer Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) travels to Marseilles, determined to stop the elusive drug kingpin Alain "Frog One" Charnier (Fernando Rey), whom he failed to stop in New York City. Once in France, Popeye is met by Inspector Henri Barthelemi (Bernard Fresson), who resents the former's rude and crude crimefighting demeanor. Doyle finds himself as a fish out of water in France, where he is matched with a language he can't understand, eliminating one of his most useful weapons--his mouth. Determined to find Frog One on his own (and unaware he is being used by Barthelemi to lure Charnier into the open), Popeye escapes his French escorts. Now here comes the unexpected; in an ironic twist of fate, Doyle is kidnapped by Frog One's henchmen and forced to take heroin in an attempt to steal information from the narcotics agent. Left abused and humiliated by Charnier, Doyle is forced to go through a long, agonizing cold-turkey withdrawal from the heroin forced upon him. Now determined more than ever to stop his nemesis, we follow Popeye as "French Connection II" unfolds in a satisfying manner, like a crime drama should.
Filmed with a grainy cinematography, matching the mood of the story, this sequel is just as engaging as the original, while Hackman's performance--especially during the grizzly-to-view withdrawal sequences--is uncompromising and breathtaking, though no Oscar nomination went his way (though a Golden Globe nod did suffice). The script allows for surprisingly deep insight to the seeminly two-dimensional character of Popeye Doyle, while Frankenheimer's directing is tight and effectual. "French Connection II" is just as great as the original (though not as well-received), if not more intriguing, and in some aspects, much more harrowing and down-right gritty...a word always associated with the "French Connection" films."
Awesome on Blu-ray! Underappreciated sequel but wonderful p
Dennis A. Amith (kndy) | California | 02/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Entertaining, gritty and taking the character of "Popeye" Doyle to new lows. Excellent performance by Gene Hackman, it may not have the shocking action and the famous chase scene but on its own, "FRENCH CONNECTION II" is a good film and very entertaining.
Four years since the original "THE FRENCH CONNECTION", in 1975, the sequel would be released. Where the first film was based on real events on the lives of Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, the sequel is more fictional.
This time around, Doyle goes to France to go after Charnier. Being in a new country, Doyle is a fish out of water and knows that what he was used to New York, it's not going to fly in France, especially with the gendarmes.
But unbeknownst to him, after he's spotted by Charnier, Doyle is kidnapped and the hard-nosed cop that we saw in the first film will be fighting for his life and be broken down severely.
A riveting film, it may not be at the same caliber as the first but it's still a very entertaining film.
If there was one thing that "FRENCH CONNECTION II" was very fortunate to have and that was the return of Gene Hackman reprising his role as Doyle and most importantly having a talented director, John Frankenheimer known for his work in "The Manchurian Candidate" and many other films (a side note: Car chase scenes have a "FRENCH CONNECTION" tie-in with the producer of that film also producing "BULLIT" and Frankenheimer who worked on "FRENCH CONNECTION II" creating one of more popular modern car chase scenes in his film "RONIN" in 1998).
VIDEO & AUDIO:
The picture quality for "FRENCH CONNECTION II" is actually pretty good. Where "THE FRENCH CONNECTION" focused more on the grittiness of New York City with its shades of blues and use of blacks and director William Friedkin making sure that the Blu-ray disc showcases the film as he wanted, "FRENCH CONNECTION II" was filmed in France and featured the beauty of France with good sunlight and vibrant colors during the outdoor scenes. But also managing to capture the gritty and grimy areas of France.
Similar to the first film, there is a good amount of grain but with the film shot in Marseilles, France and a lot of sunshine and really interesting locations in France, considering how old this film is, overall it looked pretty good.
As for the audio, the audio is featured in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Similar to the first film, the film is dialogue-driven and also showcases the music of Don Ellis. Dialogue and music is quite clear and the film does feature more gunshots. But overall, the film is mainly dialogue and music driven.
"FRENCH CONNECTION II" comes with a good number of special features.
* A Conversation with Gene Hackman - Gene Hackman expresses his feelings of working on a sequel and also knowing that perhaps director Frankenheimer may not be so happy doing a sequel but nevertheless did a good job but also felt the film was underappreciated because of the success of the first film.
* Commentary by Gene Hackman and Producer Robert Rosen - This commentary features both men (not at the same time). You mostly hear Robert Rosen talk and his commentary is more on the challenges. Especially working with Frankenheimer who was not so thrilled of working on the sequel and Rosen reveals a lot. From the difficulty of getting Mickey Mantle to give permission to use the "Mickey Mantle sucks" line to how the scene in France with Doyle running around looking for Charnier. An informative commentary but quite a few dead air. Hackman chimes in at certain key parts of the commentary but it seems the two were together but I think that Hackman was recorded at a separate time.
* Commentary by Director John Frankenheimer - The original DVD release was back in 2001, Frankenheimer passed away in 2002. So, this commentary is actually quite treasured as its one of the few DVD's to feature commentary by Frankenheimer. For filmmakers, Frankenheimer's commentary was technical and thus you learn quite a bit about certain takes. Of course, he credits Gene Hackman making it easy for him. Overall, a well done commentary!
* Frankenheimer: In Focus - This lengthy featurette is actually pretty awesome. A celebration of Frankenheimer's career as a filmmaker and television director. You get to learn a lot about him through his wife, his daughter and those who have worked with him.
* Isolated Score Track (DTS MA) - For those who love Don Ellis's music in the film, you can strictly isolate the score if needed.
* Enhances for D-Box Motion Control Systems - For those who have D-Box Motion Control capability.
"FRENCH CONNECTION II" was a tough sequel for everyone involved to make and I can understand why director John Frankenheimer felt "intimidated" of taking on the role as director for the sequel (since he was a big fan of the first film) must have been on taking on the directorial responsibility.
Frankenheimer was a big fan of the first and what Friedkin was able to accomplish, so he tried his best to keep that in mind but most of all, because of his familiarity with France and the whole film taking place in France, the them of Doyle as a fish out of the water in a city where he can't be the way he wants and live the way he wants, definitely made the hard-nosed character vulnerable.
But you have to give a lot of credit to Gene Hackman. In the first film, "Popeye" Doyle was easily despicable but yet you rooted for him as he was going to take down the criminals his way and his style. But with this second film, there is a good amount of time dedicated on the breakdown of Doyle and making him a junkie and then having to go through major withdrawals as they try to make him well. Hackman did a wonderful job!
As for the Blu-ray disc release, it's great to have one of the final commentaries of one of the most talented director's of all time and it was a well-done commentary. The tribute to Frankenheimer with a special featurette on his career was another major plus that I was proud of.
Overall, "FRENCH CONNECTION II" was an enjoyable film. Although not following the lives of Egan and Grosso like the first film, I feel that a story on Doyle and seeing how he's broken down by the criminals but then seeing him re-emerge to exact revenge right back at them was great.
If there was one thing that I wished was done, that is subtitling on the French. Sure, it's not really needed but with a good ample of French being spoken, it would have been nice to see subtitles for that.
But overall, it was an enjoyable film and a pretty cool Blu-ray disc transfer with a good amount of special features .
Hopefully we may see the return of "Popeye" Doyle or a passing of a torch for a third film over three decades later."
The definitive movie sequel.
Kenneth J. Handley | australia | 06/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That the sequel was made at all was no certainty although the original left an obvious opportunity to chart the conclusion to Doyles mission in bringing Frog One (Fernando Rey) to justice.
Hackman gives an even better acting performance in this effort if that were possible but lost out in the Oscar accolades probably due to his earlier success. This time he is on his own with no Cloudy to back him up and stuck with the sometimes dubious support of the French Police.The french acting in this movie is par excellance and perfectly cast which is saying something since this was essentially an American production. We see Fernando Rey carry on his good work from the original movie this time in a more familiar setting namely his home town Marseille. The casting of Rey in both part 1 and part 2 is almost as inspired as that of Hackman himself and also worthy of acting plaudits which sadly did not materialise.Connection part 2 is a worthy sequel to the earlier offering and although not factually correct it does give a believable ending to Doyles mission. Sequels, sadly, often do not stand up to the original production for a variety of reasons. This one is an exception for many reasons, the brilliant acting of Hackman and Rey coupled with casting and cinematography seldom equalled in a production of this type. The film going public were not disappointed in their wait for this effort. What they finally got to see will live long in the collective memories of dedicated filmlovers who cheris great acting along with a liberal dose of classic directing and casting. One cannot ask for much more."