A fresh slice of deja vu
THE CONNECTION Directed by Cédric Jimenez. Starring Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Mélanie Doutey. Cert 15A, general release, 135mins In that strange dimension denoted by the words “loosely based on real events”, The Connection is a prequel to The French Connection. Cédric Jimenez’ sleek, showy chronicle of the rise and fall of a Marseilles drug cartel during the 1970s pitches eager, newly appointed magistrate Pierre Michel (Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin) against the Corsican mob boss Gaëtan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) and his heroin-running empire.
“Heroin is the scourge of our streets,” we are told in an opening fluffy of contemporaneous news reports and obligatory shots of Nixon. But no, the scourge of these streets is a debilitating case of Scorsesisms. There are worse things.
Visibly in thrall to the groovy-soundtracked, blinkeye rhythms of Casino, The Connection unfolds with heistmovie logic: every scene must cut to a more exciting scene. There is constant movement: the camera spins around the G-man looking contemplative, every stroll down a corridor is tracked or juddering from behind a shoulder and we skip gaily between shots of heroin being packaged, a motorcycle assassin’s approach, and so on.
In a cross-cut too far, nailbiting scenes of Daddy on the job are juxtaposed with the magistrate’s cutsey-pie daughter playing Operation.
When The Connection isn’t being Scorsese, it’s being other crime movies: one henchman appears to have nicked all his furniture from the Alexander cottage in A Clockwork Orange, there are side-view mirror car-chases not unlike those in a similarly titled film by William Friedkin, and just when you think the film has already paid quite enough homage to Michael Mann’s Heat, the magistrate and the kingpin meet midway through the film on top of a mountain.
When The Connection isn’t
Blink-eye rhythms: Jean Dujardin in The Connection
being other crime movies, it’s busy being Everymovie: a desk calendar is used to denote the passing of time and many characters are so stock you’ll want use them in a recipe.
What’s the French for déjà vu?
But for all the familiarity – maybe because of it - The Connection makes for a pretty good flic-show provided you’re after fun, not historical realism. Tech specs, particularly Sophie Reine’s edits, are impressive. And Dujardin has enough charisma to ensure that the bad guys don’t hog all the cool montages. MANUP Directed by Ben Palmer. Starring Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Ophelia Lovibond, Olivia Williams, Rory Kinnear, Sharon Horgan, Stephen Campbell Moore. Cert 15A, gen release, 87mins Question: When is a bromance not a bromance? Answer: When one of the bros is a girl.
No, wait. Whatever way you look at it, Man Up is still a bromance: Jack (Pegg) and Nancy (Bell) meet, they down shots, they go bowling, they down pints, they become best buds.
Just because Nancy is played by charming Lake Bell, does not mean that she isn’t a Seth Rogan character struggling to get out of a woman’s body.
At its best, Man Up is a British-accented take on Nora Ephron’s brand of spit-balling. Working from a solid script by Tess Morris, Pegg and Bell make for good to-and-fro, secondary characters (Horgan, Kinnear) keep us amused with antics and/or quips and director Ben Palmer (who previously presided over The Inbetweeners Movie – told you it was a bromance) brings an endearingly goofy touch.
Sadly, the mechanics of the movie are a bit screwy. Can anyone buy Lake Bell as a lonely singleton? Does anyone think it’s plausible that the hero could pick up the wrong girl on a blind date? Later – ‘twas ever thus – the film struggles to find convincing reasons to tear the blossoming romance apart.
But that’s okay. The rom-com – or bromance with girl – has taken a kicking over recent years and has generated no stars since Matthew McConaughey moved on to fresher pastures. Man Up is not without minor flaws but it succeeds admirably well on its own terms.
Welcome back, discredited genre.
Yo bros: Simon Pegg and Lake Bell in Man Up