Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
In 1971, the movie “The French Connection” did many things. In Hollywood, it won (5) Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and made a star out of Gene Hackman. Outside of Hollywood it did something very few films at the time did: it opened people’s eyes. That same year, President Nixon declared that drug abuse was America’s “public enemy number one!” The film also did something for the country of France. It embarrassed them. Out of that embarrassment came the events that are chronicled in “The Connection.”
When we first meet police magistrate Pierre Michele (Dujardin in an amazing performance), he is helping supervise juveniles who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Impressed with his work, his superiors put him in charge of the Organized Crime squad, hoping that he will be able to stop “the French connection,” the almost unstoppable passage of heroin from France to the rest of the world. Much like Hackman’s Popeye Doyle, Pierre tends to listen to his gut when working on a case. His rival is Gaetan “Tany” Zampa, a drug dealer with a network that keeps him almost untouchable. Almost.
A first rate thriller, “The Connection” excels because co-writer and director Jimenez has chosen to show both main characters in their entirety. Not just at work (enforcing the law or, in Zampa’s case, breaking it) but home with their families. Both men have young children that they adore and wives that often feel neglected because of their husband’s hours. Running the period of 1975 through the early 1980s, the film is a continual rollercoaster, with great highs and depressing lows. The cast here is top notch. Dujardin won an Oscar a few years ago without saying a word. He tops that performance here. For those of you that may only be familiar with him from “The Artist” or his short role in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” I urge you to see “The Connection” and marvel at Dujardin’s layered and nuanced performance. The supporting cast is equally up to the task and there isn’t a false performance in the bunch.
“The Connection” is currently playing exclusively at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema near you.