The French Connection (dir. William Friedkin) - 1971
A good barometer for correct usage of the term “gritty”, The French Connection plays it rough and mean. Gene Hackman’s Doyle is a good cop, maybe one of the best, but there’s no doubt he’s a racist, callous man who is too obsessed with busting the bad guys to care about or give much credence to whatever innocents may get hurt in the crossfire. Roy Scheider’s Buddy is much more stable than his partner, but his loyalty ensures he’s right there along side Doyle, despite the other cops’ extreme dislike of him.
An incredibly taut and exciting ride for a film that is primarily men chasing each other around the streets of New York, often unarmed, to little or no soundtrack. The infamous train/car chase is one for the books, and the opening interrogation scene perfectly sets up our duo’s dynamic while also being pretty hilarious and baffling at the same.
“Ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?” “Did you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?” “Were you ever in Poughkeepsie?” “How about that time you were picking your feet in Poughkeepsie?” “Now I’m gonna bust your ass for those three bags, then I’m gonna nail you for pickin’ your feet in Poughkeepsie.”
Between Hackman’s performance, Friedkin’s direction, and Ernest Tidyman’s screenplay, it’s plain to see why this is an essential film. All of them were awarded Oscars for their respective work, and rightly so. Despite this, it’s the gut-punch ending that cements this as one of my new favorite films. Perhaps that’s a premature call after only one viewing, and maybe it’s due to the fact that they namedrop Poughkeepsie (my hometown) five or six times, but damnit, I’m sticking by it.
SPOILERS SPOILERS ARRGHHGHUAUHDHAHAFFFFAAA
Night of the Comet(dir. Thom Eberhardt) 
I’m gonna remake Night of the Comet and I’m gonna do it fucking right because ultimately this movie falls under the category: Shit Coulda Been So Fly, Damn.
Night of the Comet is a mediocre but not entirely worthless 80s flick about a comet that reduces virtually the entire population of Earth to dust while leaving a few survivors and slightly more zombies. The comet is a pretty big fucking deal, with the entirety of L.A. filling the streets to view it. Apparently they all just got out of a screening of The Thing From Another World! and took the last line very much to heart.
Then everyone is FUCKED except for Reggie, a sarcastic valley girl who fucking rules at Tempest, her equally snarky and slightly wackier sister Samantha, and Hector, who I’m pretty sure suffers from a personality disorder. There’s no other explanation I can think of as to why he doesn’t have one. Lobotomy?
In fact, I have no fucking idea why the Hector character exists other than to save Reggie and Sam when they get in a pickle. Even then it doesn’t seem warranted, because the film establishes early on that Reggie and Sam’s father used to take them both to his air base and train them in the use of semi-automatics. But they never fucking use them! Except for a pretty lame shootout in the mall that boils down to a game of whack-a-mole where no one is playing. Someone pops out from cover, another goes into cover. This goes on for way too long and it’s boring as hell. In an earlier montage Reggie and Sam go shopping, taking full advantage of the major post-apocalypse discount while jamming to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. If they just kept the song rolling during the shootout it would have been exponentially cooler, but not any less boring.
And that’s it for the gunplay more or less. I feel like a jilted ex in that this film promises so much and delivers on none of it. You put semi-automatics in the hands of two teens and pit them against a zombie horde, only they barely use their guns and there are no fucking zombies.Our duo encounters maybe six or seven fully transformed zombies total, and three of those crop up in dream sequences.
The zombies aren’t the main baddies, however. A thinktank anticipates the apocalypse and retreats to an underground bunker. Despite being the smartest minds left on the planet, they leave the vents open and the virus contaminates them anyway. How the hell does a virus contaminate an entire planet without actually coming into contact with it anyhow?
In order to create a serum to cure the virus they need blood, and I mean a metric fuckton of blood. Forget every other movie you’ve ever seen where they take small samples to create an antigen. These sadistic fucks need all they blood they can get, and they are sadistic. In order to farm as much blood as possible they put survivors into a vegetative state with the only purpose of producing as much of that sweet gooey bug juice as possible. My favorite scene involves two doctors mentioning they won’t get as much blood from the kids they just brought to the base before exclaiming “I love working with kids!” These doctors are seriously fucking sadistic if they can remain this bright and giggly while discussing harvesting 300 CCs of blood from braindead children daily.
One of the scientists complains the entire time about bringing survivors back to the base. At first we’re led to believe she’s just a super asshole who doesn’t want to risk saving anyone topside, but it’s revealed in a quick hamfisted scene that she’s actually a good guy who just thinks it’s fucked up what those crazy sadists are giggling about. Don’t judge me for hating her intially. That blood farming bit is revealed way later.
The problem is the quick 180 she pulls comes without any sort of apparent emotional arc and is placed directly after a scene where she appears to euthanize a young teen. Her moment of redemption is cluing Hector in on the misdoings of the thinktank and not actually euthanizing that teen, but instead injecting her with a knockout agent. Flat delivery and poor writing kill the mood though. No character boners here, just flaccid…something.
That is the best example of character development I can think of, and it’s pretty bad. The development, not the example. C’mon, I made a penis analogy! Or at least I tried to. But everyone is so fucking flat here. If you replaced Hector with a moving cardboard cutout I would be praising this film right now. Not really, but it would have been way more interesting.
Reggie and Sam redeem this if only slightly. I giggled at their snark and their ruthless dispatching of those sadists. (They hook them up to a constant stream of nitrous oxide. A little heavy for two teens, but creative!) Also, their dialogue is the only dialogue in the film reflective of their personalities, and while it isn’t great I would laud it as Oscar-worthy over the shit Hector dribbles out during the movie.
I really hate Hector.
Night of the Comet has an incredibly promising premise and two fairly likable fun characters lost among a crowd of cardboard cutouts who, much like our young heroes, have virtually nothing to do in the film. If you want to check it out it’s on Netflix Instant, but just wait a few years and I promise I’ll deliver something much, much better.
Black Dynamite comin’ atcha!