Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France, 2014. Gaumont, Légende Films, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, Ciné+, France Télévisions, Scope Pictures, Radio Télévision Belge Francophone, La Wallonie, Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Centre National de la Cinématographie. Screenplay by Cédric Jimenez, Audrey Diwan. Cinematography by Laurent Tangy. Produced by Alain Goldman. Music by Guillaume Roussel. Production Design by Patrick Schmitt. Costume Design by Sylvie Ong. Film Editing by Sophie Reine. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
The infamous French Connection was a drug ring supplying an even bigger criminal syndicate in America, already famous by the mid-seventies when this film begins thanks to William Friedkin’s Oscar-winning classic. It’s also the bane of Marseille’s reputation by the time Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) is assigned to take over as the city’s police magistrate in charge of narcotics affairs. Michel (played with easy charm by the imperturbable Dujardin) immediately makes an enemy of the leader of operations, Gaetan (‘Tany’) Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) and begins targeting Zampa’s henchmen, aided by a crack team of terrific police officers and dragged down by the spiderweb nature of the drug ring and even corruption within his own ranks. This French police epic is a worthy sibling to a Scorsese gangland film, with its great period details and rapid-fire editing; one would hope for something a little more eccentric than just a carbon-copy of Hollywood filmmaking (right down to the predictable toll that Michel’s devotion to the job takes on his home life) from the country that gave us some of the most original artists in the medium of cinema. Its perfectly logical direction by Cedric Jimenez keeps the plot bouncy for over two hours, however, and with the winning cast (which also includes a memorable Benoît Magimel) and rich but not obnoxious period details it is pulled off with great humour and style.