The Connection? You mean The French Connection? No, well…kind of.
This film is about the heroin trade conducted by the Corsican mafia in Marseille in the 70’s and 80’s, and primarily focuses on a magistrate Pierre Michel, played by Jean Dujardin. Michel’s previous work with drug addicted youth moves him to push the boundaries of his position in an unrelenting effort to shut down the mob. Dujardin imbues the role with charm and just the right amount of indignation required of a hero who must lead his unit against staggering odds. There are times in the movie where Michel must cowboy up to make headway and Dujardin does so with a gusto that will make the viewer excited to be a part of the posse.
The Connection is a movie that exudes cool. It opens with an almost nonchalant mob hit with the beautiful Marseille sea side as its backdrop. Michel’s efforts in conducting the investigation are both exciting and frustrating as he must face opposition in the form of government corruption on many levels. At one point the investigation takes him to New York City and an exterior shot shows the construction of the World Trade Center, which while a little jarring was an appreciated piece of nostalgia.
The ultimate visible target of Michel’s investigation is crime boss Gaëtan “Tany” Zampa, a French born Neopolitan representing the Corsican mafia. Gilles Lellouche takes on the Zampa role with an unsettling calm that slowly wears away as his operation becomes increasingly disrupted. Though one may not feel sorry for Lellouche’s Zampa he is relatable as he tries to maintain the lifestyle he has provided for his family. The indirect back and forth between Michel and Zampa is enthralling and culminates in a one on one exchange that has a quiet intensity not easily forgotten. Also not easily forgotten is the French rendition of the song Bang Bang on the soundtrack that will assuredly be stuck in one’s head for days.
The movie’s only shortcoming is that it does not adequately convey the severity of Gaëtan Zampa’s criminal nature. The Zampa of The Connection is almost likable as opposed to the Zampa of history who was horrifically ruthless. But given the focus on Michel and the sheer time constraints (the film comes in at just over two hours) the omission is understandable.
The Connection is distributed in the US by Drafthouse Films. Anyone lucky enough to live in a city with an Alamo Drafthouse should have no problems seeing it in the theater. Imagining Pierre Michel and Popeye Doyle, two men on opposite sides of the Atlantic each working to stop the heroin trade, meta textually adds to the enjoyment of the movie. Go out and watch The French Connection, I mean The Connection. Actually, watch both, either way you’re going to have a good time.