This tough, brilliant crime film features Hackman as the indefatigable Popeye Doyle, who passionately hates drug pushers. Professional hit man Bozzuffi kills a French detective in Marseilles while Hackman and his partner Scheider roust a drug dealer in a vacant lot in Brooklyn. Later
that night, Hackman and Scheider spot a group of mobsters celebrating and tail Lo Bianco and his wife. This leads to a massive surveillance of a large US drug ring on which Hackman and Scheider are ordered to work with federal agents Hickman and Grosso. Hackman and Hickman have a long-standing
feud which begins to boil to the surface. Meanwhile, Rey, the mastermind of the French drug traffic, stashes 120 pounds of heroin in the Lincoln Continental car of television actor de Pasquale, who unwittingly escorts the shipment to New York. Rey contacts Lo Bianco in Manhattan to arrange for the
sale of the heroin, but is spotted by Hackman who has staked out Lo Bianco and trailed the pair to a hotel. Hackman follows Rey, who is aware that he is being tailed, and the wiley Frenchman outwits the detective, escaping on a subway train, smugly waving goodbye as the cop is left standing on the
platform. Enraged, Hackman hijacks a car and gives chase.
Young director Friedkin produced a suspenseful and utterly absorbing film which incorporated thrills with street humor and routine police work with highly dramatic scenes. The chase scene, an incredible, hair-raising sequence, was shot from Hackman's car with cameras mounted in the back seat and
on the front fenders. The police are portrayed as being almost as brutal as the criminals, with Hackman shown to be a near-maniac who will stop at nothing to corral drug offenders. Hackman won an Oscar for his riveting portrayal, as did the film, Friedkin, Tidyman's screenplay and Greenberg's
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