The moment that I saw the classic Gaumont logo in front of the title credits of The Connection, (La French), I knew that I was in for a treat. From its stylized, production value to its suave cast of characters, The Connection acts as a perfect companion piece to William Friedkin’s The French Connection, as to showcase the illegal drug trafficking from across the pond. Inspector Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) moves from juvenile cases to organized crime, where he’s tasked with the impossible, to stop the “La French”, the group responsible for importing morphine from Turkey and distributing it around Marseille and also converting it into heroin for sale in New York. As Inspector Michel tries to follow up with any leads, “La French” always manages to always be several steps ahead and evade any sort of convictions from the police. It becomes personal for the Inspector, after an informant from his juvenile cases shows up dead, who will stop at nothing, until he comes face to face with the head of the organization, Gaetan “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) and brings down his drug empire.
The Connection combines the stylization of a Scorsese gangster film and the realism of Garrone’s Gomorrah, that can stand toe to toe with French classics like Riffi and the most recent Un Prophète. While the comparisons to Friedkin’s classic crime film can easily be made, the film isn’t as gritty and harrowing as The French Connection and would be misnomer to write the film off or directly compare it. The aspect that’s most engaging are the two leads in Dujardin and Lellouche, who each carry an incredible amount of charisma and swagger on opposite ends. With Dujardin, not only do we have a cop that wishes to clean up his city for noble reasons, but he’s also a family man who’s trying to maintain his livelihood with his wife and two daughters. With Lellouche, we have a man who’s built an empire with his friends and is doing everything in his power to retain it, from both his foes in the police department, as well as rival gangs and overeager business partners. The result of this conflict makes for a brazen, true crime spectacle, that writer/director Cedric Jimenez uses to its full potential. The cinematography from Laurent Tangy does an incredible job at utilizing the appropriate camera techniques, in order to highlight situations and the setting. From the handheld work during drug raids, to the wide angles capturing the beauty of the French Riviera, Tangy uses his camera as a means of fully expressing what The Connection has to offer.
The disc from Drafthouse Films comes with some beautiful video and audio presentation on the disc, as well as an hour long behind the scenes documentary. The video is presented in an AVC encoded, 1080p HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2:39.1. Both the color palette and the clarity really shine in the disc, just like everything else that Drafthouse puts out. As I was gushing about the cinematography earlier, its most certainly highlighted due to the rich HD transfer on the disc. The audio comes in a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is as strong as the video on the disc. Clarity, directionality and dynamics are fully presented in the rich soundtrack of the film. The dialog, ambience, sound effects and music are mixed extremely well and maintain a rich balance, in both the center channel for the dialog and the various surrounds for the effects and music.
The hour-long documentary, as well as the 20 page booklet offer quite a bit of insight from the cast and crew. When it gets to the portion of Jimenez speaking on creating the script and directing the feature, much of what he expounds on his intent with the film is exactly what I got out of it, a slick period piece about two men at odds. The portions of Dujardin and Lellouche speaking of both their roles and their experience working on the film are also rewarding, in that the offer insight to aspects of how they approached the roles as well as playing off of each other. Along with all of these features, there’s also a digital copy and an awesome reversible cover for the film.
The Connection is an impeccable crime film and supplants itself in the legacy that the French have with the genre. This is another winner from Drafthouse Films and you’d be missing out on a great experience if you don’t check it out. Highly Recommended!