(director: John Frankenheimer; screenwriters: Laurie & Robert Dillon; cinematographer: Claude Renoir; editor: Tom Rolf; music: Don Ellis; cast: Gene Hackman (Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle), Fernando Rey (Alain Charnier), Bernard Fresson (Inspector Henri Barthelemy), Jean-Pierre Castaldi (Inspector Raoul Diron), Charles Millot (Inspector Miletto), Patrick Floersheim(Manfredi); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert L. Rosen; 20th Century Fox; 1975)

“John Frankenheimer’s (“The Manchurian Candidate”) version outshines William Friedkin’s 1971 original.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Frankenheimer’s (“The Manchurian Candidate”) version outshines William Friedkin’s 1971 original, armed with a script by Laura and Robert Dillon that has more depth and offers a more challenging characterization of the flawed Popeye Doyle urban bigot character played so superbly by Gene Hackman in both versions (he won the Oscar in the original).

Hard-nosed narcotics officer Doyle is sent by his boss to Marseilles to aid the French police in capturing drug lord Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), known as Frog Number One, who eluded him in New York. Doyle is assigned to work with Inspector Henri Barthelemy (Bernard Fresson), someone who resents the vulgar American as a loose cannon and unnecessary presence in his investigation. This chilly welcome prompts Doyle to let his feelings be known about what he thinks of the French “I’d rather be a lamppost in New York than the president of France.”

Doyle’s ignorance, hubris, arrogance and undisguised bigotry become all too apparent as he is completely lost in the foreign city, unable to speak the language, follow orders, dress appropriately (he wears loud clothes and a porkpie hat), or act civil with his colleagues. Because he doesn’t realize he’s being used on this assignment to be the bait to lure Charnier out in the open, he loses the two policemen tailing him for his protection. Charnier’s men spot this and immediately kidnap and inject him full of heroin hoping he’ll blab about what he knows about the drug ring. When it’s discovered he doesn’t know much, Charnier dumps him as if he were a piece of garbage in front of police headquarters rather than kill him and have the entire police force after him. Doyle goes ‘cold turkey’ and after a few weeks with the help of Barthelemy kicks the addiction, but becomes set on revenge.

The slick film brings the Hackman character down a few notches by making this physical cop a comic figure, but by losing face he becomes a more appealing character to the audience. They can now better relate to his honesty and zeal to get the bad guys. The angry loner gets another chance to nail Charnier after the police raid his drug headquarters and he escapes. Doyle takes advantage of this opportunity despite his bum knees and chases Charnier on foot through the squalid city streets to his small boat, and with a pent-up vengeance takes dead aim on the devilish villain.

REVIEWED ON 11/14/2004 GRADE: B+