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FOX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Frankenheimer
Cast:
Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Bernard Fresson
Writing Credits:
Alexander Jacobs, Robert Dillon, Laurie Dillon Synopsis:
Popeye Doyle travels to Marseille to find Alain Charnier, the drug smuggler who eluded him in New York.
MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Cantonese
Mandarin
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 2/24/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director John Frankenheimer
• Audio Commentary with Actor Gene Hackman and Producer Robert Rosen
• Isolated Score Track
• “Frankenheimer: In Focus” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Gene Hackman” Featurette
• 3 Trailers & Previews
• Still Galleries


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RELATED REVIEWS


French Connection II [Blu-Ray] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 3, 2021)

Though 1971’s French Connection beat 1972’s Godfather to screens by a year, the latter accomplished a different feat first. Both films won the Best Picture Oscar, but Godfather got out a sequel quicker, as Godfather Part II made it to cinemas in 1974.

Indeed, I suspect the success of Godfather Part II - which also won Best Picture – inspired the existence of 1975’s French Connection II. Alas, Connection II failed to match up with the praise and profits of Godfather II, a factor that means it remains a semi-forgotten sequel.

In the first film, New York cop Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) pursued French drug kingpin Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). However, Popeye failed to catch his prey.

A few years later, Popeye remains obsessed with the capture of Charnier. This leads him to leave New York to visit France and continue his chase.

While Connection II failed to bring back director William Friedkin from the first flick, it snared a more than qualified substitute. Here John Frankenheimer – the man behind noted flicks like Manchurinan Candidate and Ronin - took the reins.

Though this gave Connection II the potential to live up to the first film’s highs, it fails to do so. A slow, semi-pointless endeavor, Connection II fails to ignite.

Far too much of Connection II just feels like an awkward stab at the “fish out of water” concept. Here Popeye finds himself adrift in a foreign land, as his French colleague Barthélémy (Bernard Fresson) butts heads with our anti-hero and refuses to cooperate.

When I first saw the 1971 Connection about 20 years ago, it left me fairly cold. Only when I watched it again maybe a decade later did I really connect with the movie and appreciate its qualities.

Perhaps I’ll view Connection II a second time in 2031 and the proverbial lightbulb will go off. As of 2021, though, my first time through the sequel finds me unenthused.

And by “unenthused”, I mean “pretty darned bored”. Beyond Popeye’s desire to finally nab his prey, Connection II lacks much plot, so it tends to meander and ramble on its long, slow way toward its climax.

This might not become a liability if Connection II managed to develop characters and situations in a compelling manner, but it fails in that regard. The story feels flabby and undercooked, so we get plenty of long scenes to go nowhere.

Popeye just seems like the “ugly American” most of the time, and the film fails to find ways to expand his role in a satisfying manner. He butts heads with Barthélémy in a trite manner, and we await the inevitable sequence in which the two come to terms and become partners.

All the movie’s “fish out of water” and “culture clash” scenes seem like padding. A little of them would go a long way, but much of the film abounds with these, and they get tiresome before long.

Then there’s the portion of the movie where Charnier forces Popeye to become addicted to heroin. In theory, this seems like an interesting twist, but unfortunately, Connection II extends this segment for so long that it delivers little more than tedium.

Really, the heroin sequence exists to allow Popeye and Barthélémy to bond. However, the film could’ve found a more effective way to pursue this theme, and the heroin section just wears out the viewer with its redundancy.

Ultimately, Connection II feels like a whole bunch of nothing stretched to two hours. The third act enlivens proceedings some, but it’s too little, too late to redeem this slow, not especially compelling crime drama.


The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

French Connection II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not dazzling, the image looked generally good.

Sharpness was fine most of the time. Occasional soft shots materialized, and the style of photography meant that even the best images weren’t razor-sharp.

Nonetheless, the flick looked reasonably concise and well-defined within the photographic constraints. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes.

Source flaws were minor. Grain was within acceptable levels, and occasional specks appeared along the way.

One shouldn’t expect a broad palette from a rough drama like Connection II, and the colors stayed within the anticipated range. Earthy tones dominated, with only a few brighter hues on rare occasions. I wouldn’t say the colors looked particularly good, but they were fine within the film’s style.

Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed fairly good delineation. Low-light shots could be a little murky but not in a problematic manner. Overall, the image seemed positive, if not memorable.

Remixed from the original monaural source – which also appeared on the disc – the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Connection II felt average. In terms of the expanded soundfield, there’s usually not much to it. Music spread across the front and rear but not with any great stereo imaging, so the delineation of the score tended to be somewhat mushy.

Effects showed moderate distinctiveness at times, as the ambience opened things up in a minor way. These elements never became particularly immersive, but they added a little life on occasion.

Audio quality seemed acceptable. Music tended to be a bit thin, but the score usually worked fine.

Effects appeared reasonably concise, at least, without much distortion – and without much range. Speech was appropriate, as the lines remained intelligible and fairly natural throughout the flick. This was an unmemorable soundtrack.

We get a good array of extras here, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director John Frankenheimer, as he brings a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, the movie’s path to the screen, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts, music, editing, and related topics.

For the most part, Frankenheimer brings us an informative chat. He engages in too much praise/happy talk at times, but he delivers more than enough good material for a mostly engaging discussion.

For the second commentary, we hear from actor Gene Hackman and producer Robert Rosen. Both completed separate running, screen-specific chats that got edited into a single program that looks at cast and crew, shooting in France, and various production specifics.

Expect more from Rosen than from Hackman, especially during the film’s first half. Hackman shows up more often in the second hour, but he seems essentially MIA prior to that.

The track also suffers from more dead air than I’d like, a factor that intensifies as the movie progresses. The empty spaces never become a major issue, but they occur more frequently than I’d like.

Even with these concerns, we get a fairly good commentary. Rosen and Hackman deliver more than enough info to turn this into a useful chat.

Another audio feature appears via an isolated score. This presents the music in all its DTS-HD MA 5.1 glory. Since most isolated scores go lossy, I appreciate the lossless treatment here.

Two featurettes follow, and Frankenheimer: In Focus runs 25 minutes, 13 seconds. It brings notes from filmmaker William Friedkin, wife Evans Frankenheimer, daughter Kristi Frankenheimer, editor Tom Rolf, production designer Michael Hanan, sound recordist Bernard Bats, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., director of photography Robert Fraisse, and actors Bruce Dern and Ed Lauter. We also find archival notes from John Frankenheimer.

“Focus” looks at the life and career of John Frankenheimer, with only a little emphasis on Connection II. It seems like an engaging overview, though it flits around in a less than coherent manner.

A Conversation with Gene Hackman spans seven minutes, six seconds and brings some of the actor’s thoughts on the project. We get repetition from the commentary, but Hackman delivers a decent overview.

Under Still Galleries, we get two domains: “Wardrobe” (29 images) and “Storyboards” (174 across five scenes). Both offer some good elements, though quality seems substandard, as the frames look like they came straight from a DVD.

In addition to three trailers for Connection II, Fox on Blu-ray presents a promo for the original French Connection as well.

Other Best Picture winners spawned sequels less winning than French Connection II, but the 1975 follow-up disappoints nonetheless. Slow and semi-pointless, the movie lacks purpose and feels like a stale attempt to capitalize on the prior flick’s success. The Blu-ray comes with generally decent picture and audio as well as a pretty good collection of bonus materials. This feels like a lackluster sequel.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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