Hammerle On…’Spy,’ ‘The Connection’

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bob hammerle movie reviews“Spy”

When director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy team up, it inevitably results in a film where you will laugh hysterically even if you lack a sense of humor. They demonstrated their talents in “Bridesmaids” (2011) and “The Heat” (2013), and I believe they have surpassed them both with “Spy.”

McCarthy is surrounded by a talented cast, and they all deserve special attention. In McCarthy’s case, she plays Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst tied to her desk in Washington. Her only assignment is to use her computer to serve as the eyes and ears of Bradley Fine, the agency’s top agent. Let me just say that Jude Law turns Fine into a modern day James Bond, and Cooper yearns for the ability to have the same access to Fine’s pants that she has to his head.

When it becomes apparent that a foreign terrorist group with a desire to sell a nuclear bomb has identified all of the CIA’s main agents, Cooper is packed up and sent reluctantly by her boss to Europe. Allison Janney is spot-on as her supervisor with a sarcastic attitude, and Cooper departs despite finding ridicule in every CIA corner, including that from an arrogant special agent known as Rick Ford.rating-spy.jpg
Jason Statham plays Ford, and he flamboyantly turns his movie reputation as a tough guy into little more than an arrogant fool. He is marvelous at every turn, and he would be the last man on Earth who would recognize anyone else’s talent but his own. Despite his ineptitude, he creates a character for the ages.

Furthermore, I must also say that Rose Byrne finds a way to dominate this film as the Bulgarian terrorist leader known as Rayna Boyanov. She is a sublime elitist totally confident in her own beauty and skills, and her consistent exchanges with Cooper where they sarcastically belittle each other rises to a level of crazed sophistication that you have seldom seen on the big screen.

Others make important appearances in this film, starting with Miranda Hart as Cooper’s friend Nancy Artingstall. Though neither will likely appear on the cover of Vanity Fair, they both exhibit a charm that makes them beautiful in every sense of the word.

I also encourage you to remember Peter Serafinowicz, here playing an Italian agent who continually approaches Cooper with every sexual advance known to man since Adam left paradise. He provides a rare performance as a sexist snob who becomes a loveable ally.

Let me close by saying that the film is rated “R” for a reason. While it is violent and hysterically vulgar, it transforms potty mouth behavior into a form of cinematic art. When you combine that with a Bond-type soundtrack that may merit Oscar consideration, you will understand why I have to see this treasure a second time.

“The Connection”

“The Connection” is a powerful French film (in subtitles) that should not be missed. Directed by Cédric Jiminez, it is a first-class crime drama dealing with heroin traffickers dominating Marseille in the 1970s.

The organization was known as the French Connection, and was the subject of a movie here in the United States years ago (1971) in a


 film with the same name. To give you some idea of what you are in for, this French mafia organization rivaled the one portrayed so wonderfully in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” films.

The French Connection dominated nearly every aspect of Marseille’s political structure during this period of time. Importing its opium largely from Turkey, they ran massive labs where they produced heroin that was 98 percent pure. They had an intricate system set up to smuggle the heroin into the United States in large quantities, and no one dared oppose them. If you did in any manner, you were quickly found gunned down on some street in Marseille.

With the police department virtually paralyzed by the inaction of superiors, a local, respected juvenile magistrate was put in charge of the investigating team. He was simply referred to by everyone as “the Magistrate,” and those in control of the French Connection soon realize that there is a dedicated wolf on their trail.

Jean Dujardin gives a remarkable performance as the Magistrate, and most of you will remember him for his Oscar-winning performance in “The Artist” (2011). A family man dedicated to his intelligent, caring wife Jacqueline (Céline Sallette) and their two children, he fears nothing given his devotion to the cause of honesty and justice.

Opposite him is Gaëtan “Tany” Zampa, the dictatorial head of the French Connection. He runs his illegal monopoly with a violent hand, and anyone, and I mean anyone, whose loyalty is questioned is quickly eliminated.

Gilles Lellouche plays Zampa, and his performance is as sensational as Dujardin’s. He shares one thing in common with his opponent, namely a dedication to his wife Christiane (Mélanie Doutey) and their children. Here is a guy making a fortune distributing heroin around the world while simultaneously finding comfort and joy in the arms of his wife.

As the Magistrate makes a bit of progress, he constantly runs into obstacles, most of them coming from his own team. As tension mounts on both sides as the French Connection begins to be threatened, the Magistrate’s wife begins to worry about the safety of her family. She deeply admires her husband and his quest, but how tough would it be for this mob to eliminate a pursuer who never seems to flinch while trying to hunt them down?

This is a film filled with both romance and violent intrigue, and it is all the more captivating because it is based on a true story. Zampa and the Magistrate are bound to tangle, so buy a ticket and enjoy the ride.•


Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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