A fresh slice of deja vu

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY TARA BRADY

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

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