Study Guide

The French Connection Scene 21

Scene 21

Scene 21

  • A miserable-looking Popeye is walking through the park, when a gunshot goes off and hits a woman pushing a baby carriage beside him. He drops to the pavement as the shots continue and the women around him scream. He tells them to get out of sight while he runs for cover behind a very slim tree.
  • When he looks out, another shot goes whizzing by. He rolls to the wall and draws his gun, looks up to the roof where it seems like the shots came from.
  • He runs into the apartment building and up the stairs to the roof, but it's empty. He spies a rifle and spent shells beside it, and sees a man running through the park.
  • Popeye races to follow the gunman beneath elevated subway tracks.
  • The man is Nicoli, who we guess decided to go for it even if Charnier said no. Nicoli runs up a subway station staircase, and Popeye follows.
  • Production note: it's important to mention here, for the duration of the scene, the camera moves between a camera following Nicoli, and one following Popeye, and the scene ping-pongs between them.
  • When Popeye gets up to the subway platform, he scans the empty platform, gun drawn, and then looks across to see Nicoli hiding against a column.
  • Just then, a train pulls up, and Nicoli gets on. "Stop! That man is wanted by the police!" Popeye yells, but we see the train engineer, in his booth at the front, put the train into drive.
  • Popeye runs out of the station, asking the attendant what the next stop is: 25th Avenue.
  • Meanwhile, on the train a uniformed policeman begins to walk toward Nicoli, who notices and begins to walk quickly forward.
  • Sprinting back down to the street, Popeye desperately tries to hail drivers whizzing past. At last he manages to get a car to stop, and takes possession of the vehicle, making a u-turn and screeching down the street.
  • Following by the uniformed policeman, Nicoli goes into the next car.
  • The policeman tells Nicoli to stop, so Nicoli shoots him. Riders scream. He knocks on the engineer's door, and when it opens, he puts a gun to the engineer's head, saying not to stop the train.
  • Popeye leans on the horn as he goes through intersection after intersection without stopping. He swerves to miss a column, and stops at 25th Avenue, running up to the station, only to see the train blow by.
  • On the train, another uniformed cop marches through the train to the engineer's booth, knocking on it. "You all right?" he asks.
  • Inside the booth, Nicoli, gun still pointed at the engineer's head, tells him not to answer.
  • Popeye has started driving again. He hits another car, but keeps going, fishtailing as he goes, the train passing on the tracks directly above him.
  • He watches its progress, driving into the side of a truck, but keeps moving, yelling soundlessly, the only noise the screeching of brakes and wheels and seemingly endless horns.
  • He swerves to miss hitting a woman with a baby carriage and plows through a pile of garbage, then keeps going.
  • Nicoli, sick of all the knocking, bursts out of the booth with his gun pointed at the car. "Get back!" he barks.
  • The uniformed policeman tells him to relax, while the engineer seems to be fainting at the wheel, or possibly having a heart attack.
  • Just then, Popeye, trying to keep his eye on the train, crashes into a construction wall, and then gets going again, having to go around the buildings below the tracks.
  • The policeman is trying to reason with Nicoli, but there's no calming him, and he goes ahead and shoots him too.
  • Nicoli realizes they're going past another station, and that the engineer is passed out (or maybe dead). "Stop!" he yells at him, but realizing it's too late he leaves the booth.
  • Driving down a parallel street, Popeye watches as the train goes through the next station without stopping. He swerves back to get under the tracks again.
  • The train is getting closer and closer to a stopped train in front of it, until it collides into it, and the riders are thrown to the floor. Nicoli is hurt by breaking glass, and drops his gun, falling too.
  • Popeye sees the collision, and gets out of the car, parking it in the middle of the street.
  • Nicoli gets up, and tries to pry the train car doors open. He fails, then exits the car through the other door and climbs down onto the tracks.
  • Popeye watches as he climbs down to the station, and Nicoli sees him. At the top of the stairs, Nicoli and Popeye (still on the sidewalk, slumped against a pole in some mix of exhaustion and accident-related injury) are face-to-face at last.
  • "Hold it!" Popeye screams. Nicoli turns away, and Popeye shoots him in the back. His body tumbles down the stairs, and Popeye, relieved and tuckered out, falls against the stairs beside it.

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