The Connection, film review: French thriller has gritty realism and an impressive level of detail

(15) Cedric Jimenez, 135 mins. Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette
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It's a battle of the sideburns in this enjoyable if highly derivative French thriller, set in 1970s Marseille and dealing with the same material that inspired The French Connection.

Jean Dujardin (from The Artist) is the hero, an incorruptible magistrate, Pierre Michel. Lellouche, who looks remarkably similar to Dujardin, is his equal and opposite – the Riviera crime boss Zampa.

The director and co-writer Jimenez isn't afraid to parade his influences. The scene in which hero and villain come face to face and have a long conversation together seems like a direct homage to the De Niro/Pacino rendezvous in Michael Mann's Heat.

This isn't lean storytelling either. For every sequence detailing Pierre's family life, Jimenez throws in an equivalent one of Zampa at home. The action set-pieces (the drive-by shootings and chases) are shot in gritty realist fashion, with plenty of hand-held camerawork. It's the level of detail that most impresses, the painstaking attention the filmmakers have paid to recreating 1970s France and to explaining just how far Zampa's criminal network extended.