Will the Safdie Brothers remake The French Connection with Adam Sandler?
In December 2019, A24 triggered a crime thriller anxiety attack, Uncut Gems, from the up-and-coming directing duo Josh and Benny Safdie. The film’s release caused a stir Safdie Brothers from the streets of the New York indie scene to filmmaker stardom, with Benny riding their newfound fame in acting roles in Paul Thomas Anderson Licorice Pizza (2021), the Disney+ series Obi Wan Kenobi (2022), and the next Christopher Nolan biopic Oppenheimer (2023).
The Safdie Brothers’ Relentless Approach to Cinéma Vérité Uncut Gems earned them praise from critics and moviegoers. At a sold-out screening of Gems in the Seattle area, the auditorium signal light accidentally turned on twenty minutes earlier. But the audience sat in absolute silence until the credits, too mesmerized by the film to alert the theater staff. Critical to the film’s ability to literally paralyze viewers in their seats was the Safdies’ collaboration with the film’s star.
Uncut Gems contained a powerhouse performance of Adam Sandler as “Howard Rattner” (aka “Howie Bling”), a New York Jewish jeweler on a downward spiral of gambling addiction even more gruesome than that of Harvey Keitel’s character in Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film, bad lieutenant (which had an influence on The Safdies). Critics considered Rattner’s role the finest of Sandler’s career; although his starring role as Barry Egan in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2002 film love stuffed with punch is a serious finalist (and another influence on The Brothers).
Adam Sandler Returns for Next Safdie Brothers Movie
Despite all the buzz surrounding his performance, Sandler was not nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, one of the Academy’s most egregious snubs in recent years. But if recent developments are any indication, it looks like “Sandman” (as the Safdies and others are calling him) might have another shot at Oscar gold. Earlier this year, Sandler confirmed to EW that he plans to reunite with the Safdie Brothers on their next film, saying:
“[The Safdie Brothers and I] talk about it constantly, man. I like these guys, I like them. I mean, they’re amazing filmmakers… Of course, I’d been dying to work with them again, because it’s a whole new feeling.
Last week, Sandler confirmed to Vanity Fair during an interview on the little golden men podcast than this sequel to Uncut Gems will begin filming in late winter 2023. However, Sandler stopped short of divulging plot details. So far, the brothers have also been zipped, leaving fans to Uncut Gems looking forward to any upcoming announcements and speculating, “What kind of movie are Sandler and the Safdie brothers going to do next?”
After the release of Goodwill hunting (1997), director Gus Van Sant faced a moment of anticipation comparable to what the Safdies are currently facing. In 1997, the movie world was his oyster, and the press wanted to know, “What kind of movie is Gus Van Sant going to do next?” They soon had their answer: Gus Van Sant wanted to do a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock. psychology (1960). Only in color. And that’s exactly what he did with his version of psychology (1998) starring Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore and the late Anne Heche, who died accidentally this summer after her car crashed into a residential home.
Could the Safdie brothers take a page from Gus Van Sant’s book and use this post-Gems time to redo one of their favorite films, The French connection (1971)?
The Safdie brothers ranked The French Connection among their favorite movies
Just over fifty years ago, William Friedkin’s Oscar-winning hit, The French connection, dropped in American movie theaters like a cinema verité atomic bomb. Based on Robin Moore’s 1969 non-fiction book of the same name, the film stars Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as two real-life NYPD police detectives uncovering a French heroin smuggling ring. Inspired by the gritty documentary realism of political thrillers like The Battle of Algiers (1966) and Z (1969), Friedkin shot french connection with a portable camera that gives The hunger Games (2012) a run for his money.
To add to its documentary realism, Friedkin and cinematographer Owen Roizman stuck to natural light sources, ditching Hollywood glamor lighting. They intentionally made it look like shit, capturing the trash-lined streets of New York City during the height of 1970s urban decay, something Todd Philips had to recreate for Joker (2019).
french connection features one of cinema’s greatest car chases in which Hackman’s character drives through busy intersections under an elevated train. The editing of the car chase (and the whole film) is borderline schizophrenic. Friedkin “stole” many shots, shooting without obtaining the proper permits. So when it looks like the car almost crashed into oncoming traffic, that’s because it actually almost crashed into oncoming traffic. The Safdie Brothers were so influenced by Friedkin’s approach to cinema vrai that they too became known for “stealing blueprints”. Benny Safdie told Far Out Magazine:
“[The French Connection] is one of the most incredible cop movies and pulp movies out there. Camera work, Gene Hackman, shots from the roof down. This hunting scene alone puts it [in my top five favorite movies]. You hear how they made this movie and you really feel the bare hands that went into this thing.
A remake of The French Connection could overhaul the racial politics of the original
The French connection won Best Picture at the 44th Academy Awards. Hackman won Best Actor. Friedkin, best director. It also won Best Editor and Best Cinematography. It was one of the highest-grossing films in North America in 1971. The film is considered a landmark in new Hollywood cinema. Spielberg studied it before making Munich (2005). If the bar is so high, then why would the Safdie brothers want to touch it? Or any director, for that matter?
Iconic car chases aside, modern audiences can’t see Friedkin’s film as it was in the early ’70s without hitting a big speed bump: racial politics. Not only is Hackman’s antihero shamelessly racist, but that’s essentially the only character trait Fridekin gives his protagonist other than pitbull persistence on the beat. It’s not so much that today’s public would dismiss racist cops as anti-heroes (although they might have a hard time rooting for them). The deeper issue is the film’s ambiguity towards its antihero. There’s no turning back when Hackman’s character barks abusive language at an entire bar full of African Americans.
The Safdie Brothers waded through racial waters to a lesser extent in their prequel film Uncut gems. Robert Pattinson starred in Good time (2017) as a criminal white boy (in the vein of breaking Bad‘s Jesse Pinkman) whose recklessness caused people of color around him to face the consequences. In a french connection remake starring Sandler as Hackman, The Safdies could explore its racial politics through a modern lens as they did in Good time.