Fans of ’70s crime drama and specifically William Friedkin’s ‘The French Connection’ are guaranteed to get a kick out of Céderic Jimenez’s ‘The Connection’, which finally tells the French side of that story. Gritty violence, musical montages and colorful crime characters all pop up as expected, only this time in French!
During the 1970s, France was one of the world’s largest and most successful heroin exporters, which led to Gene Hackman’s memorably stressful slice of NY detecting. Obviously, that’s no longer the case, because eventually such drug cartels in quiet countries like France must be squashed. By the time the police attack on that lucrative underworld occurred, the heroin industry had infiltrated pretty much all levels of government and business. It would take a supercop to take them down. Enter Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin, ‘The Artist’). He wasn’t a supercop in the high-flying Jackie Chan sense of the term, but he was honest, driven, skilled and relentless. At great cost to his health and sanity, he eventually brought down the whole house of cards. Jimenez’s film chronicles that wild ride in big, bright, colorful, entertaining ways.
‘The Connection’ is one of those post-‘Goodfellas’ crime thrillers that’s deeply and unavoidably indebted to Scorsese’s masterpiece. Filled with rapid-fire montages, a condensed narrative, a vast cast of memorable characters, unexpected bursts of violence, and a soundtrack of ’70s pop, the movie has many, many precedents. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jimenez knows how to pace and shoot the hell out of a story and rarely gives his audience a chance to breathe.
Despite the vast cast and various ins-and-outs therein, the movie never has a moment of confusion or a wasted character. Violence and action punctuate the movie without overwhelming it or stretching credibility. The central performances by Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche (as the heroin kingpin) alternate from searingly intense to playfully comic. And that greatest disco hits soundtrack plays like a dream.
Those elements might all be familiar, but Jimenez at least knows how to use them all effectively, and he has a true story worth applying them to. The delightful Eurotrash thriller vibe is enough to keep T’he Connection’ from feeling derivative, not unlike the underrated ‘Mesrine’ films from a few years ago. Were it not for the fact that there are already two ‘Mesrine’ movies, that would be an excellent double bill. As it stands, it would be strong triple bill for those unafraid of subtitles or numbed butts.