Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Connection (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 28.05.2015

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Connection (Movie Review)

The Connection (UK Rating: 15)

It's over 40 years since Gene Hackman's foul mouthed Popeye Doyle burst onto cinema screens in The French Connection, a ground breaker of a film if ever there was one. The arrival this week of The Connection presents audiences with much the same scenario, the battle against the drug barons of the 70s. This time, however, the setting is France, and the leading man is a much snappier dresser - Jean Dujardin.

The action's set in Marseilles - actually the location for French Connection II - and that's not the only familiar territory. Drugs are flooding into France, being processed and sold on for huge profits. Worse still, the drugs lords are growing in power and influence, extorting protection money from the local bar and club owners and infiltrating all levels of the city's administration - and that includes the police.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Connection (Movie Review)
Step forward crusading magistrate Jean Michel (Dujardin), who has made his name in the juvenile division and is now transferred to the criminal division to get to grips with tracking down the drug gangs. A magistrate in France, by the way, is a very senior judge, although here he behaves more like a high ranking police officer. Michel's target is Teflon-coated kingpin "Tany" Zamper (Giles Lellouche), whose empire spreads far and wide.

With its roots in a 1970s movie, it's inevitable that The Connection is very much old school. Not that it loses any visual style because of that, but it does mean there are almost constant echoes of other films - and not just The French Connection, with its lone crusader. Remember Michael Mann's Heat with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro? Pacino's cop only had one face to face meeting with his quarry and it's the same for Dujardin. The similarities continue, with the audience being shown the many similarities between the two men: they are, essentially, two sides of the same coin, but each has gone his own way. While the car chases may not be quite up to the standard of Bullitt, the nod in that film's direction is just as clear. Ultimately, the idea is a very simple one:  The good guy versus the bad guy.

Fans of cop thrillers might find all those references a distraction, but they don't prevent the film from being a piece of well-dressed, watchable cinema, although it has to be said its shiny shoes are well and truly stuck in the past. Its running length of 2 hours 15 minutes definitely cries out for a trim, too.

Since winning the Best Actor Oscar in 2011 for The Artist, English speaking audiences haven't seen that much of Jean Dujardin, apart from George Clooney's The Monuments Men and the occasional coffee commercial. Is he a one hit wonder, then? This performance shows he's most definitely not. He's very good as Michel, increasingly obsessed with catching his adversary and weighed down by juggling his work with his responsibilities as a family man. Just watch the scene when he breaks down in the phone box (this is the 70s, remember!).

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Connection (Movie Review)
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
As crime thrillers go, The Connection is efficient and has a strong sense of period, with its old black Citroen cars and wide ties with big knots, but it can't quite shake off its illustrious predecessor and falls back on frequent references to other films from the same genre. There's an overwhelming feeling of having seen it all before.

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