THE CONNECTION See, kids? Smoking does make you look cool!

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.