Rated: R for strong violence, drug content and language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 29, 2015 Released by: Drafthouse Films
An overstuffed, if swiftly paced true story of a thriller starring Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Monuments Men) can be confusing and wearying, but still a rather involving and watchable look at the dangerous crime syndicate "La French" four decades ago. It's noted for being the French version of William Friedkin's The French Connection which starred a great Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider (it's also the 40th anniversary of Jaws) and shows much promise.
The Connection (in French with English subtitles) uses subtle exposition to help build some startling instances and nuance to many of the characters as helmer Cedric Jimenez dexterously makes the division between wantonness and honor in tracking down this mighty Marseille group which links U.S. buyers to North African drug suppliers.
Dujardin's Pierre Michel is a no-nonsense high-level civil officer with practical chivalrous qualities whose efforts with the DEA to take down head Mafioso Zampa (an intriguingly thorny Gilles Lellouche) who, to say the least, has been hard to get close to and it seems that it quite discouraging, if futile to get to the nexus of his operation. Zampa is a family man who runs a very profitable, if illicit international enterprise.
Jose (Guillaume Gouix) helps Pierre in the process to trace down Pierre's colleagues over half a dozen years in a dogged sense of justice that makes Pierre's wife Jacqueline (Celine Sallette) more concerned about his welfare. The steely, if sprawling tale keeps Pierre enveloped in the thuggish web of La French with more emotional presence from the characters, especially a layered Dujardin, than the overall meaning from what is too cluttered and wrinkled, stout and snarky that just doesn't fully crackle into a poignant payoff like its indelible long-ago predecessor.