Director William Friedkin's 1975 classic, "The French Connection" would be a hard act to follow: the powerful thriller contained superb performances, a riveting story and managed some impressive action sequences on a low-budget. The sequel, which was helmed by John Frankenheimer (who, of course, was no stranger to the action genre during his career.)
This time around, ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman) is sent off to France in order to capture the dealer -Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) - that escaped in the first feature. Whereas Doyle was a force to be reckoned with on the mean streets of New York City, he finds himself largely a fish out of water, alone with the exception of Henri Barthelemy (Bernard Fresson), a local inspector who Doyle is reluctantly paired up with.
While Doyle believes that he's the cat in a cat-and-mouse game, Charnier turns the tables and kidnaps Doyle, forcing him to become addicted to heroin during his time in captivity. When Doyle finally gets free and goes through a lengthy process of going "cold turkey", he sets his sights on getting revenge on Charnier and taking him down once and for all.
While the late John Frankenheimer directed his own share of famed action sequences over the years, the "French" sequel comes up somewhat short on action, instead coming across as more of a drama, with a good deal of time being spent on Doyle's getting sober. The result is a movie that's a bit uneven, lacking the crisp, tight pacing of the original film. Still, the performances are a highlight - Hackman turns in another riveting performance as Doyle and Fresson and Rey offer respectable supporting turns. While the sequel comes as a disappointment after the classic first film, it does still have a few positive aspects - primarily, the performances - in its favor.
VIDEO: "French Connection 2" is presented by Fox in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC). While the image quality is a step down from the Blu-Ray presentation of the original film, the transfer still offers respectable quality. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory; while some scenes looked crisper than others, the film generally looked a tad soft. Of greater concern were some scattered instances of minor-to-mild print flaws and a few instances of light edge enhancement.
SOUND: The film is presented with both a DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack and the original mono soundtrack. The 5.1 soundtrack offers minimal support from the surrounds, with the rear speakers kicking in to provide some mild ambience and the occasional sound effect. Audio quality is adequate, with clear, easily understood dialogue.
EXTRAS: Two commentaries are included: a commentary with director John Frankenheimer and another with producer Robert Rosen and actor Gene Hackman. We also get "A Conversation With Gene Hackman" featurette, as well as the lengthy "Frankenheimer: In Focus" (which is an overview of the director's career.) The two commentary tracks are quite informative and enjoyable, with Frankenheimer discussing in detail the pros and cons of shooting in France, production obstacles, taking on the sequel after the popular original and much more. Rosen provides further discussion of production issues, while Hackman contributes stories from the set, notes about playing the character and his feelings about a sequel.
Finally, we also get an isolated score (DTS-HD 5.1) and the title is D-Box enabled.
Final Thoughts: While it doesn't manage to provide an entirely satisfying follow-up to the classic original film, "The French Connection 2" still offers some elements that make it worth a viewing. The Blu-Ray edition boasts fine audio/video quality, with a solid set of extras. Recommended for fans, a rental for those who haven't seen it yet.
The Film B-