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The French Connection
Buy the DVD  Barnes &
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Cast:William Friedkin, Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider

Five Academy Awards (including one for Best Picture) went to this critical and commercial smash from 1971-- a tense, action-packed melodrama whose gritty, uncompromising realism raised the bar for police dramas and continues to influence them even today. Based on the real-life attempts by NYPD detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso to bust an international heroin-smuggling ring, The French Connection highlighted dependable character actors Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as the top cops -- and its success made stars of them both. Hackman's Oscar-winning turn as Egan's fictional counterpart, the gruff and profane "Popeye" Doyle, remains one of the actor's most dynamic and best-remembered portrayals; his character's single-minded pursuit of French drug lord Fernando Rey still enthralls viewers. Doyle's crusade culminates in the film's unforgettable action set-piece -- a perilous car chase beneath one of New York's elevated trains that earned editor Jerry Greenberg a well-deserved Oscar for his split-second splicing. Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist), shooting on location, never lets his dedication to verisimilitude overshadow his storytelling sense, which is why The French Connection remains perhaps the most gripping urban cop thriller to date. The DVD sports scene-specific commentaries from Hackman and Scheider, and a full-length commentary from Friedkin; other extras include two documentaries (covering both the film's production and the real French Connection case), seven deleted scenes, trailers, and a photo gallery. Ed Hulse

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