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French Connection II(1975)
Still on the trail of heroin kingpin Charnier , whom he's dubbed Frog One, Doyle heads for Marseilles. On arrival, his aggressive ugly-American persona alienates French inspector Barthelmy, and his limited ability to speak French doesn't help. Frustrated by Barthelmy's lack of progress, he slips his assigned police protection and goes looking for Frog One on his own. He's soon captured by Charnier's minions, who lock him in a fleabag hotel and shoot him up repeatedly with free samples of their product until Doyle is completely addicted. Charnier uses the detective's narcotized state to interrogate him and is surprised to find that he's virtually ignorant about his operation. The disdainful Charnier has him dumped in front of police headquarters, and Barthemy arranges for him to be put in isolation. Doyle undergoes the lengthy, grueling ordeal of quitting heroin cold turkey while his desperation to capture Charnier builds inside him.
For more about French Connection II and the French Connection II Blu-ray release, see French Connection II Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Bernard Fresson, Philippe Léotard, Ed Lauter, Charles Millot
Director: John Frankenheimer
» See full cast & crew
French Connection II Blu-ray Review
'French Connection II' proves to be a worthy sequel to the original classic.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 10, 2009
I'd rather be a lamppost in New York than the President of France.
Sequels are a funny creature. Often, a film following up on a bona-fide classic -- Aliens, The Godfather, Part II, or The Empire Strikes Back, for example, frequently come close to, match, or occasionally surpass the quality of their predecessors (then again, there is also Alien3, Alien: Resurrection, and Return of the Jedi). Generally, though, the majority of sequels that follow up on only good, mediocre, or bad movies tend to offer little more than a rehash of stale characters, a force-fed plot, or both. French Connection II, one of the few sequels to follow up on an Oscar-winning best picture, falls somewhere in the middle. It's a fairly good movie, well-scripted, superbly acted, generally intense, and featuring a mostly logical progression from the first film, but it's no match for the precision and gritty realism of The French Connection. Nevertheless, it returns two-thirds of the original's trio of primary characters and makes for both a strong character study and a fine Action/Crime picture.
Gene Hackman reprises his role as "Popeye" Doyle in French Connection II, the film seeing the dedicated officer traveling to Marseilles to bust his nemesis from the first film, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey, also reprising his role). Doyle finds himself under the auspices of French detective Barthélémy (Bernard Fresson) who seems to know Doyle all too well, and much to the New York cop's chagrin. Doyle's pursuit of Charnier seems to be going nowhere when Charnier himself happens to catch a glimpse of Doyle from afar. Soon thereafter, Doyle is kidnapped and injected with narcotics, both breaking his will to withhold information and addicting him to the very substances he despises. Doyle is eventually freed while on the verge of death; will he recover sufficiently to chase down Charnier once and for all?
French Connection II isn't quite as dreary and deadly serious as the first; it enjoys moments of levity that do well to lighten the mood. A sequence featuring Doyle sharing a few drinks with a non-English speaking French bartender is priceless in both its entertainment value and character development. Hackman's performance in both this sequence and throughout the remainder of the film is as equally mesmerizing as it was in The French Connection. He retains the self-confidence and desire to perform his work his own way as the character was developed in the first film, but he also shows a lighter side in the first act of this film that humanizes him, even in the face of the confusion and uncertainty of life in another country. The humanization of the character does not cheapen or otherwise lessen the impact and authority of Doyle's style. He's still a foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails, singleminded-in-his-work officer that refuses to take no for an answer, disrespects many of those with whom he comes in contact, and plays the game by his own rules.
Doyle still remains a dark character despite a few moments of levity, and French Connection II also remains a rather dark film in its own right, taking viewers deep into the world of narcotics and the malefactors that inhabit it, perhaps even deeper than that shown in even the first film. While most of French Connection II is not quite as edgy or disturbing as something like Requiem for a Dream, it is still a scary, well-acted, and well-made film punctuated by another fantastic performance from Gene Hackman. The film's discomforting second act sells the whole; Doyle's forced dissent into the world of a substance abuser is both startling and painful to witness, the plot sold not by the visuals or the direction but rather by Hackman's uncanny performance. Whether angrily dismissing Charnier's attempts at breaking him, writhing in agony from his "cold turkey" recovery, or delivering his extended dialogue sequence discussing baseball, the actor delivers a performance worthy of the picture, the character, and the Oscar he earned for his portrayal of the same character in The French Connection.
French Connection II Blu-ray, Video Quality
French Connection II debuts on Blu-ray with a fine 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Like that of its predecessor, this film's transfer offers viewers some bleak imagery that lacks in fine definition and eye-popping colors, though much of the film offers a far more vibrant and natural appearance than the over-processed, grim, and terribly grainy appearance of the last film. There is a fair amount of detail to be enjoyed here, and colors are more stable and natural. Some scenes absolutely sparkle. Doyle's arrival in Marseilles, for instance, is bright and clean, with minimal grain, strong colors, detailed foregrounds and backgrounds, and overall pleasing-on-the-eye imagery. Various rough surfaces, for instances the small room in which Doyle recovers from his addiction, reveal the lines and texture of stone walls nicely. Blacks are deeper here, and flesh tones are generally solid. The transfer does see plenty of grain, though it is not nearly as prominent as that seen in the previous film, but this transfer does see more in the way of speckles over the print. French Connection II rates as another quality catalogue transfer from Fox.
French Connection II Blu-ray, Audio Quality
20th Century Fox brings French Connection II to Blu-ray with the expected DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, in addition to a monaural presentation. Like the soundtrack accompanying The French Connection, dialogue is sometimes difficult to make out, either lost under effects or just not presented with adequate volume at reference levels in relation to the remainder of the mix. The track never strays very far from the center channel; sound effects are mostly unimpressive, and even scenes that would seem to call for an obvious flow of sound from one channel to another remain focused in the middle of the soundstage. An explosion in chapter six during a police raid is uninspired at best with little in the way of an authoritative punch. Even a major shootout sequence about three-quarters of the way through the film offers minimal sonic impact; it's loud but hardly aggressive, adequate but not at all memorable from an audio standpoint. Generally, the lossless mix enjoys a bit more clarity than the one-channel track, but that's all.
French Connection II Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
French Connection II comes to Blu-ray with a fair amount of bonus materials, headlined by a pair of commentary tracks. First up is a track featuring Director John Frankenheimer. The director offers up an informed and honest track where he recounts his involvement in the process, including the initial ideas of the for the film (which included nothing more than a setting in France), his part in creating a concept for the film, and the techniques employed in shooting the film and remaining faithful to the look and feel of the original. Like Friedkin's track on the first film, Frankenheimer does well to both recount the action on-screen in addition to greatly expanding on it and filling in the gaps. Actor Gene Hackman and Producer Robert Rosen are featured in track two. This track is a bit more dry than the first, but no less informative. The pair offer plenty of insights into the production, their co-workers, and more. Frankenheimer: In Focus (1080p, 25:13) features a plethora of Frankenheimer friends and family members recalling the director's approach to filmmaking with a look at many of his films. A Conversation with Gene Hackman (1080p, 7:06) features the actor sharing a few thoughts on the film, many of which were touched upon in the commentaries. The disc also includes D-Box functionality, two still galleries (Wardrobe and Storyboards), an isolated score track presented in DTS-HD MA lossless audio, the film's English-, Spanish-, and Portuguese- (1080p, 3:15 each) language trailers, in addition to a trailer for The French Connection (1080p, 2:51).
French Connection II Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
French Connection II is a worthy successor to its multi-Oscar winning predecessor. Though not among the all-time great sequels, it smartly builds on the primary character and logically progresses the action from film to film. The story is generally intense and captivating, and Hackman's performance is once again exemplary. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of French Conection II is a winner. The disc sports a good video transfer, an adequate soundtrack, and offers several supplements. While not on the same plane as its Best Picture-winning predecessor, French Connection II makes for fine cinema and is now available on a better-than-average Blu-ray disc. Recommended.
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