THE CONNECTION (La French)
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: Cédric Jimenez
Screenwriter: Cédric Jimenez, Audrey Diwan
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lelloche, Céline Salette, Mélanie Doutey, Benoît Magimel
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 4/29/15
Opens: May 15, 2015
There’s a reason that users of illegal drugs are penalized for purchasing heroin, cocaine, and crack. If there were no users, there would be no distributors. The market would dry up, and the narcotics problem would go away. Here in the U.S. we have to face the fact that our users are responsible for the anarchy in Mexico, for the deaths of 60,000 in drug wars south of the border, as the vast majority of drugs from there find their way here. Ditto France. According to Cédric Jirmenez’s “The Connection,” known as “La French” in the original title, every so often a single drug lord in Marseilles gets an order for one hundred kilos of cocaine or heroin, which he arranges to ship to New York inside a truck carrying a sign for an ordinary corporation. Because of this, the French government and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration work together. We have our agents in Marseilles, they travel now and then to New York.
However, again according to “The Connection” which is loosely based on a true story taking place in the mid-1970’s (the time of “The French Connection” which starred Gene Hackman), many officials in southern France including the mayor of the city and a newly elected minister may be on the take and do not go after the criminals with vigor. The job of nailing the bad guys falls to the leader of a French enforcement division, Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin), known as the magistrate. Despite pressure from home, from his wife who complains that she does not like to be alone and does not think her husband is sharing in the upbringing of their two young daughters, Pierre Michel deserves the title of “mad dog” that the drug kingpins give to him. He is tenacious on many levels, not only orchestrating drug raids and making solid arrests but getting the arrested criminals to confess to their crimes and to name others, even testifying against Gaëtan “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), a man so ferocious that nobody appears willing to rat him out. Zampa is a Neapolitan who speaks fluent French and Italian, working out of France’s leading southern city. He is Pierre’s number one target, but so far, nobody is able to pin anything on him. Jimenez, whose short résumé includes the political thriller “Aux yeus de tous” in 2012, knocks out a terrific thriller once again belying his relative lack of experience in the director’s chair.
It helps that he is using Jean Dujardin, who is working against type as the tough, unyielding magistrate, a performer whose title role in George Valentin’s silent film “The Artist” is a gem of comedy in which a Jack Russell terrier stole the show right from under Dujardin. Dujardin delivers a spellingbinding performance as a man who must make a decision: whether to ensure the safety of his wife and two daughters by phoning in his job as a magistrate, or to risk sacrificing the devotion of the three by being a pit bull in pursuing his nemesis. The film’s highlight is a two-hander, a dialogue between the magistrate and the drug king in an desolate spot on the road as thought the two are leading generals in battle who get to know each other, then retreat back to their own lines to fight to the death.
Laurent Tangy juggles his hand-held camera, making director Jimenez look really good, while the two leading actors, both with granite faces and rigid agendas, keep the action riveting. If “The Connection” reminds you of “The French Connection,” that is because it deals with the same story except that this one concentrates in Marseilles rather than New York.
Rated R. 135 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – A-