(1971) dir. William Friedkin
Hard to find fault with this gritty, action-packed policier, which has a well-earned reputation as a top-quality cop flick. I’d never seen the film. Another one of those movies that “everybody” has seen. Now I am in that category.
So much has been written about this film and its car chase sequence is super solid and understandably oft-imitated. The glimpse of New York City circa 1970 is interesting, the culture, the landscape. The film doesn’t try to sell a hip stylishness, but the tougher parts of the city, the undersides of elevated trains, back alleys, etc. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider. Gene Hackman is fucking great.
The main thing that stuck out to me was the treatment of racism in the character of Hackman’s Popeye Doyle, who utters several slurs, but particularly in the shake-downs of the African-American bar at which his informer hangs out. The depiction is sort of face-value, I think, trying to reflect some aspect of reality perhaps, not necessarily supporting the rough, racist treatment of the bar’s patrons. I guess it’s depressing to realize how probably realistic that portrayal would have been at that time (not to say that it isn’t still like that today in places). Doyle certainly wouldn’t have gone into a bar primarily habituated by Caucasians and pushed everyone around, violating their civil rights, cowing them in ways that shows that this is a common experience for both. It’s strange how much these two scenes struck me and how small a portion of the narrative those segments were, but yet that is what struck me. I don’t know all of what I think about it exactly, but there you go.
Yeah, and this movie is quality.