For true-crime completists, Cédric Jimenez's new drama presents the French side of the international drug-smuggling venture known as the "French Connection." Heroin was moved from Turkey through France, by French and Italian gangsters, and on to the United States, with the illegal traffic reaching its peak in the 1960s and '70s. (The American angle was depicted in the gritty 1971 thriller The French Connection.)
In this chapter, Pierre Michell (Jean Dujardin), a police magistrate in 1970s Marseille, is assigned to take down the port city's drug kingpin, Tany Zampa (Gilles Lellouche). What transpires will be familiar to any student of gangland procedurals: a scattering of successes and setbacks, amid corruption, incompetence and betrayal on both sides of the ledger. The film shifts between cop and gangster, pairing the men in their similarities as leaders, devoted fathers, wearers of well-cut suits. Connection plays out more drama than thriller, and it betrays a certain European melancholy, even as cheesy disco music plays or Jimenez unspools another kicky montage.