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William Friedkin famously mistook Spanish actor Fernando Rey for a Frenchman when he cast him as the infuriatingly suave “Frog 1” who torments Gene Hackman in The French Connection. Now, 44 years later, the French exact revenge by telling the corresponding story from their side in The Connection and downplaying American involvement (a visiting DEA man is briefly glimpsed and quickly sidelined).
Jean Dujardin (The Artist) plays Pierre Michel, a Marseille magistrate hell-bent on bringing down the 1970s transatlantic drug-smuggling operation ruled by Gaëtan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche).
Sophomore director Cédric Jimenez plays it safe, spending his budget on meticulous beige and brown period detail and mobster montages set to 70s pop. At times it feels like money for old tropes but Dujardin is a likeable lead who shows he can do more than just ooze charm as he starts to crack the case at the expense of even bigger fissures in his family life. But the film never quite boils over into Friedkin/Hackman levels of New York hypertension, settling too often instead for the movie equivalent of a Gallic shrug.
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