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The Connection (Jean Dujardin) - Review

The Connection

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

HAILED by many as the European counterpart to classic American crime thriller The French Connection, Cédric Jimenez’s aptly named The Connection is a genre film that’s as stylish as it is engrossing.

Featuring standout performances from Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche, this is a French film that owes a lot of its inspiration to the gritty American style of the ’70s (whether it’s William Friedkin or Martin Scorsese) but which also knows how to put its own indelible stamp on proceedings.

Dujardin plays young investigating magistrate Pierre Michel, who arrives in Marseille, a city riddled with organised crime, in 1975 with his wife (Céline Sallette) and children, determined to bring about some order.

He sets to work tackling the French Connection, a mafia organisation responsible for smuggling in raw Turkish heroin, refining it and then dispatching it back to the US.

Going against the wishes of his family and colleagues, Michel sets his own safety aside to embark on a personal crusade against Gaëtan Zampa (Lellouche,), the seemingly untouchable godfather of the French Connection, taking ever greater risks to bring down the crime-lord, while also compromising the safety of those he holds dear.

The ensuing thriller is certainly a lengthy affair (clocking in at almost two and a half hours) but it sustains a nice mix of character and tension that affords both leads plenty to sink their teeth into.

Dujardin, who is hitherto best known to UK audiences for his charismatic turns in The Artist and The Monuments Men, here gets to display a lot more grit than usual, especially as he turns increasingly desperate to get his man (in that way mirroring the same ruthless pursuit of Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle in The French Connection).

But Lellouche is every bit his equal, providing a wily and ruthless adversary, who also mirrors his pursuer in a lot of ways. Watching these two men go head to head is richly absorbing (and the film’s main focus), while Jimenez also punctuates proceedings with some stylish set pieces and a rich visual palette that makes the most of its glamorous French Riviera locations.

It’s only when the focus removes from the main players that The Connection stumbles, failing to provide as many richly drawn supporting characters as a Scorsese or even Michael Mann crime saga does.

But while falling short of the out-and-out classic status it clearly aspires to, The Connection remains a class act in its own right and a damn fine genre entry worthy of any enthusiasts’ attention.

In French and Italian with subtitles

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 15mins
UK DVD Release: October 19, 2015