A thriller centred on the true story of the French Connection in Marseilles throughout the 1970s and early 80s – the drug smuggling cartel immortalised by William Friedkin’s Oscar winning 1971 film of the same name (it won best film, director and actor for Gene Hackman, as well as best adapted screenplay and editing). I’ve seen this film billed as a remake of the original but that’s not accurate as this is a French language film focusing the story on the police investigators in Marseilles trying to combat the organisation whereas Friedkin’s movie was largely concerned with the operation on the other side of the pond in New York City. The French Connection themselves were responsible for the vast majority of the heroin that found its way onto the streets of the U.S. at the time and there is a wealth of material there for storytellers going all the way back to just before World War II, and then also the French Gestapo during the Nazi occupation and in some cases even a few of the resistance fighters.
Indeed, it is perfectly possible that ‘The French Connection’ had an impact on real events as the year of its release saw an intensification in international efforts and resultant successes in tackling the organisation. Here, Jean Dujardin plays new magistrate in town Pierre Michel, who very much personally spearheads fresh efforts to tackle the trade, and he gives his best performance since his Oscar winning turn in ‘The Artist’ (11), one well matched by his opposite number Gilles Lellouche playing crime lord Zampa. It’s a well executed, thoroughly traditional and enjoyable crime thriller and one positively influenced by Marseillais director Cédric Jimenez’s familiarity with the city and its past. Expect violence from start to finish from a film that also works really well as a missing piece in the puzzle previously illuminated by both ‘The French Connection’ and its 1975 sequel, but also to a lesser extend ‘The Godfather’ in 1972.