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The French Connection
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The French Connection is a 1971 movie that is filled with frequent profanity (including "f--k"), violence, and questionable behavior. The two lead characters, NYPD detectives, are in more of an antihero vein: racists, drinkers, smokers, and womanizers who engage in law-enforcement practices that don't seem entirely by the book. One of the detectives tells the other "Never trust a ["N" word]." In two instances of violence, a character is shot in the face at close range, and two bodies are in a car covered in blood in the aftermath of an accident. There are drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. A police detective finds his partner in his apartment handcuffed to his bed after sex. A woman's naked buttocks are shown. Overall, though, it's undeniably one of the all-time great films and one that set the standard for cop movies for decades to come.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Two tough NYC police detectives, "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) stumble upon a gigantic heroin-smuggling ring that connects the New York mafia to Marseilles, France. They discover who the "French Connection" is -- a suave gentleman named Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) who manages to elude Doyle and Russo's pursuit. But when one of Charnier's hit men tries to murder Doyle, Doyle goes above and beyond traditional law-enforcement techniques, determined to stop Charnier and shut down his heroin operation.
Is it any good?
Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider are unforgettable as cop partners using pretty much any means necessary to stop a large shipment of heroin from coming into New York City from France. The action is unrelenting, and the car chase scene alone is a masterpiece in filmmaking. The French Connection set the standard for cop-themed dramas for decades to come, and it's easy to see why. The dialogue, action, and story combine to create a dark, gritty, and cynical masterwork from director William Friedkin, as perfect an example as any of the dark brilliance of so many great 1970s-era urban-themed films.
Based on a true story, and the winner of multiple Oscars, THE FRENCH CONNECTION is undeniably a classic that has transcended its gritty 1971 release to remain not only a great film but also a highly influential one. By graying the lines between "good guys" and "bad guys," one can see the influence of The French Connection on contemporary classic cop dramas such as The Wire.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the concept of the antihero. What does that mean, and how do these lead characters embody this idea?
At the end of the film, the filmmakers seem to be making a comment on the criminal justice system. What is that comment, and do you agree or disagree with the message?
Does the violence in the film seem necessary to convey a sense of realism, or does it seem gratuitous?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.