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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Connection (La French) movie review: not-so-good fellas

The Connection (La French) green light

With supercool 70s chic and a smart crime thriller vibe, this is a welcome throwback to action dramas of the past, before they chose spectacle over story.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Jean Dujardin

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

With supercool 70s chic and a smart crime thriller vibe, The Connection feels more like GoodFellas than it does the movie it is directly related to, 1971’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, The French Connection. Though that’s hardly a bad thing. Here we discover the other side of the transatlantic heroin supply chain that Popeye Doyle was investigating in 1970s New York City, via Marseilles magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin: The Monuments Men) and his years-long battle — we open in 1975 here and run into the early 80s — with crime boss Gaëtan “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lellouche: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec) to destroy his drugs empire. From the fug of cigarette smoke that hangs over Michel’s approval of questionable law-enforcement methods — blanket arrest warrants? okay, then — to the delicious visual grit director Cédric Jimenez achieved by shooting on 35mm, this is a very welcome throwback to action dramas of the past, before they got bloated with spectacle and forgot that we need complex characters to be intrigued by and a story that wraps us up in its world. Lellouche doesn’t only bear a striking resemblance to Robert DeNiro, anchoring that GoodFellas-esque sense, but also to Dujardin, highlighting a thin-line-between-cop-and-criminal motif that unites these two men; they’re both obsessed by their own purposes, both dedicated to their families, neither one-note caricatures but realistic men. Dujardin’s performance is intense and gripping, so much so that you will instantly forget (if you even knew it at all) that this is the first truly dramatic role for the comic actor. This is one of those movies that I could have watched forever, it’s that enthralling.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Connection (La French) for its representation of girls and women.

green light 4 stars

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The Connection (La French) (2015)
US/Can release: May 15 2015
UK/Ire release: May 29 2015

MPAA: rated R for strong violence, drug content and language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, strong language, drug use)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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