During the sixties, the heroine capital of the world was Marseille, France. The drug was extracted in Turkey, shipped from Marseille, then would reach its destination: New York. The operation was better known as the French Connection. The story depicted in 2014’s THE CONNECTION is the parallel tale to the story in William Friedkin’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Director Cedric Jimenez goes to great lengths to deliver a gripping film, one that pays respect to the people it’s about while recreating a long lost era with visual flare.
Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) has just received a promotion within the police force. He’s become a hero for his tough as nails response to the war on drugs. Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) is driven by money and power. He’s taking over the drug trade in Marseille while trying to keep his family life separate from his criminal activities. Each of the men have are driven to excel at their goals which finds them soon facing off against one another. Zampa keeps a clean record making it almost impossible for Michel to build a case against him. His dire need to clean the streets drives a wedge between him and his wife. As the years go by, neither of them let up and blood will be spilled in the streets when the police launch a full on assault to bring down the operation worth millions of dollars.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION has gone down in history as being a classic and Jimenez knows this so instead of trying to replicate that films’ success, he focuses on his two lead characters. We get to see how each character tries to separate their jobs from their family life and how the seepage effects them all. Since the film is set predominantly in the 70’s, Jimenez’s attention to re-creating the details of the era are always spot on. The violence could have been a bit grittier (ala GOODFELLAS) and that’s the only real critique I have for an otherwise impressive film. The story is always gripping and pretty straight forward, holding your attention for 135min. The more I think about it, the movie reminded me a little bit of Michael Mann’s HEAT. Almost halfway through the film, the war heats up between the cops and the mob, and for the first time, Zampa and Michel come face to face in a highly charged exchange. Gilles Lellouche and Jean Dujardin are so mesmerizing in their respective roles it’s impossible to take your eyes off them. The supporting cast is just as enthusiastic about their performances making THE CONNECTION a can’t miss action thriller.