'The Connection" is the French side of "The French Connection": A look at '70s mobsters moving heroin through Marseilles on its way to New York City.

There are just a few problems. First off, it's been four decades since "The French Connection" and this movie seems intent on regurgitating the many modern mob movie cliches that have become established in that time. Secondly, this "Connection" is in no way as explosive as "The French Connection." At best it's mildly interesting.

Gangster movies should not be mildly interesting.

Based at least somewhat on actual facts, the film follows French prosecutor Pierre Michel (Oscar winner Jean Dujardin from "The Artist"), who's taken off juvenile cases and put on organized crime. The film quickly establishes that he's obsessive — he's recovering from a gambling addiction — and gives him a personal motive when a teen girl he's been counseling dies from an overdose.

Michel's target is the Italian drug lord Tany Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), who's sending literal truckloads of heroin to New York while still taking time to make sure plenty of French people get strung out, as well. Zampa controls corrupt politicians and cops, so Michel takes to serving phonied-up warrants and busting his underlings.

Which isn't terribly effective — most of the real action and disruption in Zampa's camp comes courtesy of a fellow gangster trying to take control. But, eventually, Michel catches a break and the dominoes begin to fall.

Dujardin smokes a great many cigarettes in this film, cementing its French '70s air. Unfortunately, he has no chance to show off any of the charm and wit he displayed in "The Artist." Essentially he's playing a frustrated bureaucrat. Yes, it's that thrilling.

'The Connection'


Rated R for strong violence, drug content and language

Running time: 135 minutes

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