If you’re a fan of crime movies based on true events La French AKA The Connection is a must-see. It follows the French side of the drug syndicate explored in William Friedkin’s 1971 masterpiece The French Connection. A good starting place for further research of this scheme is this Wikipedia article. Taking place in the seventies, this is also an excellent period movie that will take you to the sunny city of Marseille. The atmosphere is positively vibrant and almost unhinged. The first 45 minutes are kind of wobbly as we’re slowly learning who’s who and what’s going on. After that, La French starts getting really good.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist, Möbius, OSS 117) was phenomenal as judge Pierre Michel who’s trying to clean up the city. Somewhat disjointed storytelling was bound by his story and kept the viewer engaged. This is a much more subdued crime thriller compared to other, similar movies. Olivier Marchal directed a couple of them, also set in Marseille, so if you would like to continue your exploration of this subject check them out. Les Lyonnais, 36 Quai des Orfèvres, Carbone and Bronx are all good movies worth watching, also based on true events. Opposite of Dujardin we have Gilles Lellouche as Gaëtan Zampa, a ruthless boss running a huge operation. Unlike others, I quite liked him in this movie. He brought a sense of realism anchoring the characters. It’s funny that he and Dujardin look alike.
It is the seventies in the beautiful coastal town of Marseille and judge Pierre Michel is trying to help young kids hooked on drugs while working in the Juvenile Court. The city is full of drugs because it’s the center for Gaëtan Zampa’s drug operation where he’s importing the drugs from Turkey and then shipping them to the USA. Tired of executions done in broad daylight and a sharp rise in crime, the powers that be charge Pierre with the task of bringing down Zampa. Bringing him down using any means necessary.
La French is a cliched movie bogged down by clunky middle part and relatively confusing beginning. I’m now almost used to this style of storytelling in French crime movies. It’s like they live in some different, more emotional and character-centric world. Or maybe they just can’t build a decent narrative. There are just too many loose ends and emotional scenes that simply don’t have the intended impact. Still, it will give you enough content and a fresh perspective on the familiar story. We will also learn more about how gangs and law enforcement functioned back in the seventies. Spoiler alert, same shit different decade.
Director: Cédric Jimenez
Writers: Audrey Diwan, Cédric Jimenez
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Mélanie Doutey, Benoît Magimel, Guillaume Gouix, Bruno Todeschini, Féodor Atkine, Moussa Maaskri