French Connection II
|by Dan Goldwasser
on February 24th, 2009
French Connection II, the 1975 sequel to William Friedkin's 1971 instant-classic The French Connection starts with NYC detective Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) arriving in France, where he is tracking down French drug dealer Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), who apparently escaped at the end of the first film. Directed by John Frankenheimer, French Connection II is not based on any real-life story (as the first film was). Doyle goes through a lot in this film; he is captured by drug dealers and injected with heroin to cause an addiction, and then has to deal with withdrawal. With the help of the French police, he finally starts to track down Charnier, but he's still the same stubborn cop that he was in the first film, to his own detriment. The film is not as good as the original, with some questionable scenarios and unlikely results, and there is little that ties it to the predecessor. In all, it's an okay movie - all of the talent involved have certainly done better, but there are a few good sequences that make it worth checking out.
Originally released on DVD in 2001 at the same time as The French Connection, the new Blu-ray release of French Connection II carries over almost all of the supplements from that set, along with three new extras. Visually, French Connection II looks pretty decent for a 1975 film. There is film grain, and occasional print artifacts (dust and whatnot), but it allows the detail to come through. Some shots look excessively grainy, mainly some establishing exteriors, but that is likely a result of the film and not the transfer. The color timing on the film is intact, and not re-done for Blu-ray like Friedkin's film, so fleshtones are natural and at times the color is saturated and pops quite nicely.
Audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as the original English, French and Spanish mono tracks. It's a rather front-heavy soundtrack, and given the film's age, sounds limited to the effects of the era. But it's got a subtle use of surrounds, and Don Ellis' score benefits the most from that. The mono is the preferred way to go, however.
For supplements, most of the extras from the DVD are included here. First up is a commentary track with actor Gene Hackman and producer Robert Rosen, as well as a second commentary by director John Frankenheimer. Differences between the two films are discussed as well how as the approach was different, and Frankenheimer's track is more interesting. Also carried over from the DVD are "Still Galleries", consisting of costume designs and storyboards.
New to the set is "Frankenheimer: In Focus" (HD, 25-minutes) which is a nice overview of Frankenheimer's career, with recollections from his family and collaborators. "A Conversation with Gene Hackman" (HD, 7-minutes) continues the discussion from the first film, and Hackman talks (briefly) about his experience on the sequel. Composer Don Ellis returned to score the sequel, and like the first film, an isolated score is included, sequenced in the manner that Ellis had intended. Still missing from the Blu-ray are the theatrical trailers that had originally appeared on the DVD. Oh well.
French Connection II is a less engaging follow-up to the original 1971 film, but it's worth checking out for a few of the sequences. With a pretty solid archival video transfer and spattering of extras, it's at least worth a rental for sure.
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