Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Connection

The Connection is about the French Connection, done from the French perspective instead of the New York perspective. And the funny thing about it is that the actual title, in French, is La French. Well, you couldn't call a movie The French here. Wouldn't mean anything. And you can't call it The French Connection because, well, you know.

So, The Connection it is. "The French" is the name of the organization providing the drugs to the New York mob and in French, everyone says their name as "The French". Not "le Fran├žais".

What we have here is a mob story, in French, which means: a) It's going to be hard to follow, because mob stories are especially hard to follow (at least for me); b) The villains are going to be Italians, all played by French guys, speaking flawless French.

OK, I can't really support (b) here: I have no idea if that's true of French mob movies, or if their French is flawless. That said, writer/director Cedric Jimenez and co-writer Audrey Diwan don't do themselves a lot of favors with the pacing of this film.

One of my oft-noted pet peeves: This movie is very loosely based on real events, at which point—when you've already tossed fidelity to the wind—I think you need to juice it up a bit. As The Boy said, it was "too real". Many outcomes seemed pre-determined and lacking suspense. (And while it's historical, certainly The Boy wasn't aware of any of the history.)

Fine acting across the board, good characterizations, big name French stars, tight editing (even if the pacing is somewhat lax), the style is spot on for the late '70s, and the music is good without being obnoxious, though at one point the mafia kingpin loses it over Kim Wilde's "Cambodia". (No idea what that was about.)

And—I guess this is the French part—at one point, our hero has a breakdown in a phone booth when his wife leaves him, and there's a big dramatic moment that, you know, you won't find in The French Connection. The odd part to me was that his family was never at risk. I've never seen that in a mob movie. That's how the mob gets you: Threatens to kill you, and if that doesn't work, threatens to kill your family.

It's so weird that this guy tools around Marseille on a scooter while pursuing the most vicious drug dealers of the day. The denouement was also weird. Almost "Crime doesn't pay. Isn't that sad?"

So, a lot of missed opportunities, we felt. It's not bad. It's just not as good as you want it to be. Jean Dujardin (The Artist) as the hero, Celine Salette (Rust and Bone) as his wife, Gilles Lelouche (Point Blank) as the drug lord, Benoit Magimel (For A Woman), Guillaume Gouix (Midnight in Paris), Moussa Maasrki (Point Blank), and Dominic Gould as John Cusack. (Really! Sorta confusing, actually.)

And, of course, I have my standard reaction to these sorts of films: "And drugs were never seen in the land again." Because the stupidity behind all this stuff is that fighting the laws of economics like fighting the laws of physics. But you know: We get some movies out of it.

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