Set in Marseille in the 1970s at the height of the heroin trade, “The Connection” fills in the French back story to “The French Connection.”
Jean Dujardin plays real-life Pierre Michel, the newly appointed magistrate trying to shut down the heroin connection; his nemesis is crime boss Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), who roughs up his underlings but, when they get rubbed out, pays for a fancy funeral.
Director Cédric Jimenez has the finesse of a Hollywood slickster. From scene to scene “The Connection” is never less than watchable, although it is also never less than predictable. He overdoes the two-sides-of-the-same-coin simpatico between Pierre and Gaetan – they even look alike – and he is altogether too enamored of the allure of crime. This is a common problem in crime-centric movies: The bad guys are almost always more fascinating than the good guys. He needn’t have worried here. Dujardin’s bull-necked, hard-charging performance makes Pierre a worthy adversary. He gives righteousness some muscle tone. Grade: B (Rated R for strong violence, drug content, and language.)