William Friedkin achieved cinematic perfection in 1971 with The French Connection, a gritty, realistic portrayal of the notorious heroine smuggling operation and the NYPD detectives trying to bring it down. It’s a raw, in-your-face, kinetic wonder that features one of the best car chases in movie history, a phenomenal score by Don Ellis, 1970s NYC in all it’s trashy glory, and a blistering performance from Gene Hackman.
Before Hackman donned a badge as Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, cops were mostly portrayed on screen as benevolent authority figures; clean-cut good guys that could do no harm. Doyle is more complex, he’s shown warts and all and can be downright despicable. The French Connection helped usher in the second golden age of Hollywood (arguably the best decade in movie history) and went on to win 5 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing) and be named on AFI’s list of 100 best American movies of all-time.
The latest Drafthouse Films release, The Connection is the French counterpart to the Friedkin classic. It takes place in Marseille in the 1970s and follows magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) as he takes on the French Connection and their fearless leader Gaëtan “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). It is “loosely based on real events.”
Director Cédric Jimenez crafts a solid, if forgettable, by the numbers crime film. The period detail is on point and the soundtrack is complimentary, but stylistically Jimenez is no Melville (Le Samouraï, Le Cercle Rouge), and overall the movie’s a little bland. The Mediterranean setting gives it a different vibe than The French Connection and you can feel the inspiration of several films including Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and The Departed, Michael Mann’s Heat, Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic, and the David Simon series The Wire. The Connection never reaches the heights of those classics, and it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it doesn’t take any major missteps and is worth a look if you’re a fan of the other films I mentioned.
The Connection gets 3 out of 5 Nerdskulls
The French Connection gets 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
The Connection is now playing in Houston at Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park. Showtimes here.
Check here for a theater near you.
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