Two seminal films from the '70s, "THE FRENCH CONNECTION," and "THE FRENCH CONNECTION 2" are now available on blu-ray from FOX! Gene Hackman gives his usual knockout performance in both films as Popeye Doyle, a narcotics detective, whom along with his partner, Buddy Russo, uncover elements of a huge heroin shipment from France, and work against time, criminals and their superiors, to find the shipment and capture the criminals. "THE FRENCH CONNECTION" is based on a true story, and William Friedkin's direction, moves this gritty suspense drama along at a hair-raising pace for the majority of the film. Like the best films of the '70s, there is a dark underpinning to the lead characters as well as the style of the film, culminating in an ending that's truly disturbing and intentionally, less than certain. Of course, "THE FRENCH CONNECTION" also features one of the most famous car-chase scenes in film history, and while it's still quite good, this reviewer prefers the car chase scenes of John Frankenheimer(director of "The French Connection 2")over Friedkin, any day of the week!
"FRENCH CONNECTION 2" picks up with Popeye Doyle, heading to France, with the aim of bringing the mastermind smuggler, who escaped in the first film, to justice. Unknowingly, Doyle is being used as a ploy to bring out the smuggler by the heads of the police department. There's a lot of focus on Doyle's problems while trying to do the right thing, in France, with no jurisdiction, no gun, and no partner. Things get much worse, when Doyle is abducted and turned into a heroin addict(not kidding!) While completely different in narrative structure and pacing than the first film, "FRENCH CONNECTION 2" is no less impressive. It's not as tense, but it's compelling to watch and Hackman's performance is Oscar worthy.
Both films have been released with the correct 1.78:1 aspect ratio on 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray. Unfortunately, Friedkin chose to reprocess the colors of the image, believing them to be too rich for the gritty film he'd envisioned. However, his complete and utter lack of knowledge as to how to go about it results in the mess of an image presented here. The laserdisc and earlier presentations of the film looked decent, but this image is often atrocious! It looks worse than the recolorized films that competent directors like Scorsese argued against in the '90s! Worse, now there are shots actually appearing out of focus! The image on "THE FRENCH CONNECTION" is,...dreadful!
"THE FRENCH CONNECTION 2" offers a comparatively masterful transfer to the newly colored "FRENCH CONNECTION." It's still not a very impressive image, often veering towards a soft look and offering little improvement over dvd on blu-ray. But, at least it doesn't look awful. Neither of these films could impress a viewer as to the potential merits of blu-ray technology!
"FC" offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, 2.0 downmix and the original mono. While the 5.1 offers some impressive ambient effects, as well as boosting the great score, surrounds are mostly absent. The mono mix is preferred, however, it shows severe limitations in fidelity as presented here. All of the extras from the recent dvd special edition have been carried over, with more, including deleted scenes and some other things in HD.
"FC2" offers the same options, but fares worse in each instance, with fidelity wanting in all of the mixes. The extras from the recent dvd special edition are on hand, but a new documentary about Frankenheimer is also included, and it's magnificent!