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Review by Sharon Knolle
Produced by Alain Goldman
Written by Audrey Diwan and Cédric Jimenez
Directed by Cédric Jimenez
Starring Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette,
Mélanie Doutey, Guillaume Gouix, Benoît Magimel

The Connection continues the drug trade drama of ’70s crime classic The French Connection, focusing on the French counterpart of the notorious heroin ring.

Set in Marseilles, the film takes place after the events of The French Connection. While it’s not on par with William Friedkin’s gritty Oscar-winning film, it’s a tense, stylish policier that stands on its own merit.

The film focuses on magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin), and his six-year attempt to take down seemingly untouchable drug lord Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche).

Much like Gene Hackman’s dogged cop Popeye Doyle, Michel becomes obsessed with his target, to the exclusion of all else.

Everyone is well aware that Zampa is the man behind the heroin trade, but everyone is too scared – or too well paid – to challenge his rule, until the fearless Michel.

Dujardin is terrific as the driven, idealistic Michel, a far more demanding role than the lightweight The Artist, which earned him the Best Actor Oscar. When we meet him, he’s a magistrate dealing with juvenile junkies, whom he’s not only trying to save, but use to find their supplier. His crusading efforts don’t go unnoticed: He’s soon tapped for a big promotion to Marseilles, where he shakes up the weary police force. He begins cutting corners and bending the law to get results and soon his marriage suffers.

We learn Michel is a recovered gambling addict and his new addiction is, of course, catching Zampa. The only real weak spot in the film is the limited role of his wife (Céline Sallette of The Returned), whose scenes consist mostly of complaints about Michel’s obsession and threats to leave him.

Lellouche (Mesrine: Killer Instinct) plays the ruthless Zampa.

In a scene Quentin Tarantino would love, Zampa chastises a colleague with a story about the tradition of his Neapolitan forefathers, then exacts an unpleasant lesson to illustrate it. The film spends nearly as much time with Zampa and his men, a well-oiled syndicate reminiscent of the close-knit clan in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

The two adversaries meet in only one scene: To compare it to the sitdown between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat would be a stretch, but it’s a great moment. Instead of the grudging professional admiration between Michael Mann’s cop and criminal, we see two immovable objects intent on destroying the other, with neither willing to back down.

The Connection is now playing in limited release.
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