The Connection (La French) is crime thriller film from director Cédric Jimenez, starring Jean Dujardin as Pierre Michel, a recently promoted police magistrate who takes on the gangsters involved in the ‘French Connection’, the infamous drug smuggling scheme prominent in the 60s and 70s, the US side of which has been dealt with cinematically in William Friedkin’s The French Connection.
Dujardin’s Michel is a driven, ambitious figure, desperate to clean up the city because he’s dealt with the direct effects of drugs on France’s youth. Opposite him is Gilles Lellouche as Gaëtan Zampa, head of a crime syndicate smuggling heroin into and out of the country. The film gives both of these charismatic actors ample screen time to relax into their roles, and in doing so it manages to create a believable and entertaining dichotomy at the heart of the action.
Jimenez draws good performances out of his ensemble, blending together the diverse soundtrack and Laurent Tangy’s cinematography to create a convincing period setting. The workings of the plot become a little notty as the story moves forward, and it’s not always entirely clear how Michel comes to his conclusions, but generally speaking the film gets away with it. It also gets away with being slightly overlong, because Dujardin serves up a likable and (mostly) believable protagonist. Thankfully, Jimenez reserves just enough time for Céline Salette and Mélanie Doutey, as the partners of the two leads, to make impressions, lending a convincing if slightly forced family element to proceedings.
There are elements of cliché in some of the story’s turns, and indeed the dialogue, but the film succeeds in forging its own identity in the crowded crime film canon. It’s a little overlong and som e of the storytelling is a tad unclear, but Jimenez keeps the pace up (including some brief, nicely choreographed bursts of violence), and the performances are good across the board.