If nothing else, The Connection looks gorgeous—set in Marseille in the late '70s and early '80s, and shot on 35mm, it's a movie that revels in its time and place, with Laurent Tangy's sun-dappled cinematography rolling in dusky yellows, browns, and blues. And when those visuals are paired up with a few select songs from the soundtrack—not to mention some impressive set design, and a cast that's somehow both authentic and photogenic—it hits several high points. Its stylish opening sequence, the camera speeding behind and alongside and in front of a motorcycle as it swoops and wends through traffic, is lively and surprising and remarkable.
The rest of the film, not so much. Plot-wise, it's basically "But what if The French Connection were French?" as a hard-working police magistrate (Jean Dujardin) chases after one of those crime lords who's more likeable than he should be (Gilles Lellouche). Looking past all that French-smuggled heroin, there's a bit of a Heat vibe here too—director Cédric Jimenez makes sure we notice how similar these enemies are—even if the film has none of old-school Michael Mann's ice-cold propulsion. What's here instead are some strong performances tied to a drawn-out, by-the-numbers crime story. There's little "wrong" with The Connection—and again, there are a few moments where things seem really right—but it offers little that other films about cops and robbers already haven't. Maybe just watch one of those instead. Maybe The French Connection.