The Connection

Because in French, they don’t need to call it “The French Connection.” The fact-based tale of cops versus smack smugglers in 1970s Marseille may be familiar from a certain celebrated American film, but this take, made with gusto by director Cédric Jimenez, doesn’t seem daunted at all. Nor does its hero (Jean Dujardin), a decent magistrate whose compassion for street kids takes him straight to the source of the heroin that’s wrecking their lives. That would be a self-righteous kingpin (Gilles Lellouche), who proves also to be a tauntingly elusive nemesis. It comes as no surprise that both sides of this engrossing rivalry see their family bonds strenuously tested. Jimenez hasn’t exactly broken the period-crime-thriller mold, but he’s built a solid entertainment, with techniques well absorbed from the American movie tradition. Early on we get our bearings by way of briskly Scorsesean montage — a tidy mosaic of visual, musical, and spoken narration. Scenes thereafter ring with clarity, and the movie doesn’t feel as long as it is (two hours plus). Details of production design seem correct without being overbearing, and Dujardin never looks desperate to insist he’s a serious dramatic actor. Plus, there are life lessons, such as: When punishing an insubordinate assistant by pumping him full of bullets, do be sure, lest the job go unfinished, to take out at least one vital organ.