When it was first released in May 1977, the omens for Star Wars were not particularly good. The film's leading actors were unknowns, the sci-fi genre was still a niche one, and its director's last effort in that area had been a box office disaster. Rumours from the set were bad, the film constantly strained at its budgetary limits and studio heads considered pulling the plug at one point. The crew meanwhile were openly derisive of this strange space story, wondering what on earth they were working on.
Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) are two undercover cops working for the New York Narcotics Bureau, dealing with small time hoods and drug dealers on the streets of New York. Cloudy is the more sensible and low key of the two; Doyle is a loose cannon with a nose for trouble and the veteran cop's sense for when something's not right.