Cédric Jimenez is telling that very same story that Friedkin once did, except from the other side’s perspective, as we delve into the life of a police magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) who is assigned on taking down the elusive, notorious leader of a formidable drug ring, Gaëtan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). Despite knowing he’s involved, such is the meticulous, mindful approach taken, the law enforcement have nothing substantial on Zampa to bring him down – which is exactly what Michel has been tasked to do. But it’s by no means a straightforward task, as the officer and his dutiful team desperately attempt to prevent the rising distribution of the drug that is poisoning their streets.
From a stylistic point of view, The Connection is impressive, with a vintage, almost sepia-tinged aesthetic to give a real flavour for the 70s setting. But where this picture comes into its element, is from the powerhouse performances from two of France’s most dependable leading men. Particularly from Dujardin, who drops that charisma and playful side to his demeanour, for an empathetic turn. He’s a well-crafted, identifiable protagonist, which works in the film’s favour. So often with productions of this ilk, the hard-nosed detective has a seen-it-all-before look smacked across their face at all times, like the cold-hearted Liam Neeson brand of hero – but with Dujardin he gets emotionally affected by what he sees, he reacts in a way that we can recognise as being similar to how we would respond too.
You await the first confrontation between the pair with an eager anticipation, in the same way you do when watching Heat with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. But this isn’t quite the same pedigree, and though the suspense is well-judged, and the pacing spot-on, The Connection is missing that one, unforgettable sequence, which is where Michael Mann’s film truly came to prominence, in that scene. The story is told in an expert fashion however, as we see the situation from both sides of the coin, waiting for them to eventually lock horns. The way Jimenez balances all of the varying narratives is commendable, albeit somewhat convoluted.
For all of the positives, however, what transpires is a frustratingly generic production that abides too faithfully to the rules of the thriller genre; with the suspenseful music implemented at exactly the precise moments you’d expect, as a film that’s just not quite audacious enough to transcend such tropes and go from being a decent thriller, to an unforgettable cinematic experience. But there is also something to be said for convention, as for all of its unoriginality, it’s rather comforting and dependable at the same time, which best describes this sufficient offering.