Study Guide

The French Connection Violence

Violence

Compared to the blood-and-gore of a lot of contemporary movies (hello there, Mr. Tarantino), The French Connection isn't so big on guts. (Unless you count that seemingly gratuitous scene with the car crash while Simonson is taking the boys off the case.)

Mostly, people got shot and killed in a more or less neat manner, in the head or the chest: no muss, no fuss. Arguably, the most intensely violent scene is that famous car-and-train chase, where Nicoli cuts down not one but three bystanders just to keep driving his runaway subway train. For our money though, the screeching and crashing happening down below—thanks to Popeye going 70mph with no stopping—is a lot more disturbing to watch.

Questions About Violence

  1. The movie's characters don't spend a lot of time crying over spilt milk, um, we mean dead bodies. What does that tell us about a character like Cloudy, whose main identifying characteristic is that he's more sensitive than his partner?
  2. By the time Popeye sees the train has stopped, he's sustained more than a few bruises in car crashes. Is it significant that he's injured as he drags himself to shoot Nicoli? Why or why not?
  3. Even when Popeye is talking to an undercover cop during a bar sting, he has to punch him so that others won't suspect anything. What do you make of this kind of public expectation about cops in this movie?
  4. What's the deal with the scene where Simonson is telling Popeye and Cloudy that they're off of the case? It seems like they could've just as easily had the talk in the precinct office. But here they are, with dead bodies covered in buckets of blood. Why might that contribute to the story?

Chew on This

For the police in this movie, violence is a tool of order.

Car crashes act as a kind of symbol for a larger, more symbolic violence between the cops and criminals in this movie.