Friday, June 5, 2015

LA FRENCH
(THE CONNECTION)

Greenbelt 3 Cinemas


It is 1975 and the coastal town of Marseille in the south of France has become the hub of organized crime. Led by charismatic Gaetan "Tany" Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), the head of a gangster organization simply known as La French - it deals with drugs, prostitution, corrupt cops, illegal gambling, money laundering casinos and other crime related activities.  His main market is in the US where he exports high grade heroin. He ruled the drugs trade for several years. But he soon meets his match in the tenacious Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin), a former juvenile court magistrate who is newly assigned to the anti-organized crime unit of the Marseille police force.

The film is loosely based on real events and the lead actors did their best to portray their real life characters with much conviction. Both of them are given much leeway to work with the wealth of information available for their roles. Both of them are shown as loving and supportive heads of their respective families. Both achieve notoriety within their circles. Both of them are ruthless and take their 'jobs' seriously. And the fact that they look almost identical made for interesting viewing. 

Judge Pierre Michel is very dedicated and passionate about stopping the menace of the drug trade. He is overzealous to a fault even taking risks which affect his family life. He is portrayed by Jean Dujardin, who achieved fame as the silent movie actor in the acclaimed black and white film "The Artist" which won all the major awards, the year it was released. I still see him as the actor with the goofy smile and the twinkle in his eyes so it can be distracting to witness him as a serious, never-say-die-attitude police judge. He is quite convincing, both physically (the long sideburns ruled) and artistically. 

Tany Zampa was quite a polarizing figure, back then. He was a larger than life crime boss who headed the huge 'empire' composed of Corsicans, Neapolitan Italians and thugs who cooked massive amounts of heroin for export to the United States. Gilles Lellouche was credible as the ruthless gangster who didn't hesitate to kill or have his henchmen kill anyone who stood in his nefarious ways. In fact, he registered more screen presence than Dujardin. But then perhaps it is because bad guys tend to be glamorized more in these types of films. 

The crime thriller was a bit exciting but did lose some steam midway after some of the action packed scenes laid low but then it picked up a notch towards the suspenseful ending. Clocking at over 2 hours, the story lacked focus here and there but it never felt overplayed. Its solid substance and gritty nature was compelling enough to hold one's attention even for 135 minutes.

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