The Connection, or La French back in its homeland, is the cross-Atlantic take on William Friedkin’s 1971 film The French Connection. This European version from French writer, producer and director Cédric Jimenez begins in 1975 and follows the real-life story of French police magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin). Although this version nods towards its predecessor, there is almost no relationship with Friedkin’s American classic, and no mention of Doyle and Russo.
The film’s link to its forerunner doesn’t serve it well. Friedkin’s crime drama is a gritty, masculine film in the underworld of a grey New York. Its European counterpart is much slicker, with impeccable 70s silk shirts and sideburns, historic programming, and neo-disco culture. The Connection is a masterclass in style; its surface is beautiful, though the film lacks depth.
The Connection is based in Marseille, known at the time as the world’s capital of heroin, and a base for The French Connection, a scheme in which the drug was smuggled from Turkey, through France, to the United States. Protagonist Michel is an ex-gambler and family man pitted against the French Mafia kingpin Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). As Michel becomes obsessed with dismantling The French Connection, uncovering some dangerous truths along the way, his home life and mortality are thrown into question.
Jimenez has done well with this high-budget piece, and it’s a sure winner in its native country. The writing is not the best, however, the acting is superb, the soundtrack is fantastic and the cinematography is at times stunning. It’s clear there’s been an influence from the likes of many cat-and-mouse crime thrillers; the work of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and even Quentin Tarantino is significant within The Connection, as various scenes clearly remind viewers of those from Goodfellas, The Untouchables, The Departed, and Scarface. Particular moments set in the Krypton club leave viewers almost expecting to see Tony Montana giving the famous stare.
Despite its flaws, particularly its lack of character development, The Connection is a well-crafted film, and Jimenez has done well enough to warrant another go at the genre. Well worth the 135 minutes of subtitles.
The Connection is released nationwide on 15th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Connection here: