Directed by: William Friedkin
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure,
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Gene Hackman, Roy Schieder, directed by William Friedkin? How could I not watch this film? Hackman stars in one of his best performances in this police drama that has two cops on a crackdown on drug dealers. The plot was sharp and the direction from Friedkin was vey intelligently, making it a well-rounded action drama. Films about cops always fascinate me and this film definitely meets the standard of other great ones I have seen.
Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner, Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider), are New York City police detectives on narcotics detail, trying to track down the source of heroin from Europe into the United States. Suave Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) is the French drug kingpin who provides a large percentage of New York City's dope, and Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi) is a hired killer and Charnier's right-hand man. Acting on a hunch, Popeye and Buddy start tailing Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and his wife, Angie (Arlene Faber), who live pretty high for a couple whose corner store brings in about 7,000 dollars a year. It turns out Popeye's suspicions are right.
The action for the first is quick, sharp and very gripping. The one scene that I will never forget is the great chase scene that takes place on foot, in cars and on a train. It involves Hackman’s character chasing a criminal who attempted to shoot him with a sniper from the top of a building. The great thing about the sequence is, you do not know where the action will go next, and whether or not the cop is going to succeed in catching the criminal.
On the note of Gene Hackman, he was great as the pushy, edgy and quite eccentric cop who seems quite brutal at times. His voice gave the performance quite a bit of energy, and there is something amusing about him saying “God damn it!” Alongside Hackman was Roy Schieder who I will always no for his Joe Gideon character in “All That Jazz” He was almost as good as Hackman, but there was more focus on Hackman.
William Friedkin, who would later direct “The Exorcist” did an excellent job here in unravelling the crime. Ensuring that the audience does not get bored, the intricate shots keep you embraced with the action, such as the legendary chase scene with Hackman and the sniper. With the action involving Popeye tailing a train, it is one of the most iconic scenes in the film for its clever editing and great suspense.
The film is remembered a lot for the fact that ‘Popeye’ is not your ordinary hero. He’s rough, violent, and quite relentless with his dedicated obsession of being a cop. It is also remembered for its grimy realism (and downbeat ending) which was a big change from the buff-and-shine gloss and good-guys-always-win heroics of most police dramas that preceded it.
It is considered now one of the greats of the 70’s, which I can fairly agree with but I did not love it as much as some critics have like Roger Ebert who gave it 4/4). The story is gritty and real, the action is fast-paced, the performances were wonderfully solid and the film is undeniably smart. I may not think it is a masterpiece or definitely one of the 70's most powerful films, but iff you want to check out some of the 70’s early films, this would be a good place to start.