Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Mélanie Doutey, Guillaume Gouix, Benoît Magimel
Running Time: 135 minutes
Crime thriller The Connection certainly looks the part. It’s a sleek, snazzy face-off between magistrate and drug kingpin, all in the sun drenched coastal city of Marseille.
Based on true events, The Connection might make you think of Friedkin’s much lauded 1971 thriller, The French Connection—and you’d be right. This is the European side of the story, the so-called ‘French connection’ or production of heroin in Turkey, sent to the States via France in the ’70s. It’s an intriguing glimpse into the murky crime syndicates which lie beneath the sparkling, crystalised veneer of sunny Mediterranean glamour.
Cedric Jimenez’s take focuses on straight down the line good guy, Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) who’s recently been sent to take on crime boss, Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). Both men look immaculate throughout (well, mostly) with their sharp ‘70s tailoring, sideburns and catalogue model jaw lines. In fact, they also both look remarkably similar to each other. It’s like the battle of the Davidoff models: only one can win.
Perhaps Jimenez is saying something about the nature of true crime. It’s oddly disarming to see such beautiful people caught up in the scuzzy depths—more so when we see the effects on the teenage heroin addict, Lily through Michel’s eyes.
This constant engagement with crime takes its toll on the magistrate in other ways too. His marriage invariably suffers, instead he spends hours and hours every evening examining the case, looking for a way in. Crime boss Zampa also reveals hidden depths. Scenes of him getting on with daily family life sit uneasily with his actions, forcing us to see him as a more fully rounded character.
Of course, this is all hardly new ground. We’ve seen these tropes a hundred times before. But there’s definitely something about The Connection which holds your attention. Maybe it’s the soft patina of cool ‘70s that pervades it, maybe it’s the incongruously picturesque setting, or maybe it’s all the beautiful, beautiful people after all.
Stylistically, The Connection looks amazing too; it’s like a glossy retro themed photo shoot for GQ. Added hand held cameras give a sense of unfolding gritty tension and realism (it’s filmed on 35mm too for added ‘authenticity’), but ultimately The Connection has a hard, glittering sheen, aided by the highly competent and slick cast. Céline Sallette is utterly convincing as Michel’s wife, demonstrating depths of emotion in the final harrowing scenes, while both Dujardin and Lellouche are outstanding as our debonair leads.
Although it may not tread any new ground, it’s impossible not to warm to a film which does it so damn stylishly. Don’t bother trying to compare it to The French Connection, instead look at The Connection as simply another facet to the story. While at times, The Connection feels like it’s trying just that bit too hard to achieve retro fashioning, there’s certainly enough going on beneath that beautiful, beautiful surface.
The Connection is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 19th October 2015.