March 4, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I & III • Page 21 ‘The French Connection’ comes to Blu-ray by Dennis Seuling Since Blu-ray has emerged as the industry standard for high definition discs, studios have been rushing to release their classics and lesser titles in this sharp, amazingly detailed format. Twentieth Century-Fox Home Entertainment has just issued five Blu-ray titles. The best by far is the Academy Award winner for 1971, “The French Connection,” starring Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, and Fernando Rey. This gritty drama catapulted Hackman from supporting player to star for his indelible portrayal of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, a New York City cop driven to get to the bottom of a multimillion-dollar influx of drugs from overseas. The early part of the film establishes the characters. Doyle is all cop, relentless and determined to follow leads no matter what it takes, from standing on a cold street corner to sitting in a car on a stakeout, to chasing a wouldbe assassin through the streets of Brooklyn. With partner Buddy Russo (Scheider), Doyle aggressively bugs his commander for wiretaps and manpower because his instincts assure him he is on to something big. The movie is based on a real case, the biggest New York drug bust of that time. Rey costars as the urbane “connection” of the title, who plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Doyle. Director William Friedkin creates a taut, suspenseful film, highlighted by what is still the best chase sequence on film. Starting on foot, it escalates to Popeye commandeering a car and following an elevated subway train onto which the bad guy has fled. As the train speeds overhead, Doyle races through Bensonhurst’s 86th Street, tearing through red lights, sideswiping cars, nearly killing a woman and her baby. The excitement in this marvelously edited sequence builds as Friedkin cuts to the mayhem on the subway car above, Doyle frantically speeding below, and assorted vehicles veering to avoid crashing into Doyle and occasionally crashing anyway. “The French Connection” also won Oscars for Best Director, Actor, Editing, and Adapted Screenplay. The disc has several all-new special features, including an introduction and commentary with Friedkin, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and seven behind-the-scenes featurettes with Hackman and Friedkin. Other Blu-ray releases from Fox include “The French siana bayou and the dark, dangerous world of New Orleans mobster “Baby Feet” Balboni (John Goodman). The cop’s investigation uncovers layers of corruption, long-buried secrets, and a lethal alliance. Director Bertrand Tavernier combines atmosphere-rich locations, a zydeco and country music soundtrack, and first-rate performances, but there seems to be too much content for one movie. The picture is filled with subplots, including one about profiteering from the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Katrina is not mentioned in the novel. Despite the clutter of plot tendrils, however, the movie is involving. Jones turns in a fine performance, and there are some good moments with Goodman as a reprehensible fat-cat racketeer. Costars Peter Sarsgaard, Mary Steenburgen, and Ned Beatty are all effective. The Blu-ray edition has no extras. “Ashes of Time Redux” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), originally completed in 1994, was the first film from director Wong Kar Wai’s Jet Tone production company. It received only a limited release and, in the years since, existing prints and negatives had become damaged or destroyed. The director and his team decided to revisit the project and began by assembling as much existing material as could be found and restoring those elements, using advanced technology that did not exist in the early ‘90s. He also (continued on Crossword page) Gene Hackman won an Academy Award for his performance as Popeye Doyle in ‘The French Connection.’ Connection II,” one of the most disappointing sequels ever; “Raging Bull,” voted by film critics as the best American film of the 1980s; the cult favorite “Donnie Darko,” which follows a delusional high school student (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is visited by a demonic rabbit with eerie visions of the past; “The Boondock Saints,” a violent, modern-day morality tale about twin brothers who surrender their humanity to take on the underworld and rid the earth of those that bring evil; and “The Passion of the Christ,” containing both the theatrical and a less violent version of the film. “In the Electric Mist” (Image Entertainment) stars Tommy Lee Jones as Dave Robicheaux, the veteran detective hero from the 17 best-selling novels by James Lee Burke. 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