FRENCH CONNECTION II

title: THE FRENCH CONNECTION II year:
1975
cast: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey rating: ***

There's a guilty pleasure watching, for nearly a half an hour, a thinned-down Gene Hackman as New York's iconic tough cop Popeye Doyle being force-fed heroin in a Euro-slum and then kicking it cold turkey, squirming, vomiting, and screaming about Mickey Mantle. We begin in France and this time remain there. Hackman can't get a decent whiskey buzz, finds it impossible interrogating perps, and is without partner/anchor Roy Scheider (although French partner Bernard Freeson, who resembles Vic Morrow, does a great job). The maze-like cat-and-mouse between the ragged good guy Doyle and classy villain Charnier (Fernando Rey) is more blind crippled dog vs lazy lion this time around. Perhaps because Charnier (who speaks English, ruining his mysterious quality) is too comfortable while our hero has nowhere to turn. This grungy sequel, which does merit some excellent handheld camerawork, feels like a visitor game without much of a home team. But at times the claustrophobic journey is somewhat interesting. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be enjoyed, but rather, experienced. And the last frame (five or so seconds) is, I have to admit, much more satisfying than the original's benign cliffhanger.

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