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GENE HACKMAN RETURNS IN THE FRENCH CONNECTON II

Hackman's a more vulnerable Popeye Doyle Year: 1975
There's a guilty pleasure watching, for nearly a half an hour, a thinned-down Gene Hackman as New York's favorite tough cop Popeye Doyle being force-fed heroin in a Euro-slum, and then kicking it cold turkey whilst squirming, vomiting, and eventually screaming about Mickey Mantle.

French Two Score: ***1/2
We begin in France and this time remain there. Unlike his New York stomping grounds, Doyle can't get a decent whiskey buzz, finds it impossible interrogating perps, and is without partner/anchor Roy Scheider, who, that same year, was busy hunting a Great White Shark for Steven Speilberg. But the good news is Scheider's replacement, French actor Bernard Fresson, does a great job, starting out as Doyle's bitter, lecturing lead on the French beat, and then beginning to trust each other's rhythm, and making a fine team.

Brand New Partners
The involving cat-and-mouse chase between the ragged anti-hero Doyle and classy villain Charnier (Fernando Rey) is more of a crippled dog verses a lazy lion this time around. Perhaps because a less mysterious English-speaking Charnier is too comfortable as he meets with American military agent Ed Lauter, while Popeye has absolutely nowhere to turn in this grungy sequel...

Which does merit some excellent handheld camerawork, feeling like a visitor game without much of a home team. But at times the claustrophobic journey is somewhat intriguing. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be enjoyed, but rather, experienced. And for conventional audiences aka those who like a happy ending, the last frame will be much more satisfying than the original's ambiguous cliffhanger.
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