Dir: Jerome Salle. France/Belgium. 2008. 109mins.
A fun slice of escapism, neatly packaged for international consumption, Large Winch falls just a sliver short of creating a new action-adventure franchise, although a sequel is apparently at script stage. Lanky French stand-up comic Tomer Sisley isn't conventionally movie-hero rugged as the titular protagonist but, playing a rebellious Yugoslav orphan adopted as a baby by a billionaire tycoon, he's appealing enough to keep this comic book-inspired romp rolling.
Director Jerome Salle (Anthony Zimmer) tells his complicated tale energetically in a logical blend of French and English dialogue and gives the seemingly-ubiquitous Kristin Scott Thomas a particularly juicy role as well. Local returns should be encouraging on Dec 17 release for this all-action story, which is based on the first four instalments of the 16 hard-back comic books to date about a casually-cool young man who isn't sure he wants the headaches of bottomless wealth thrust upon him.
When self-made billionaire Nerio Winch (Manojlovic) dies unexpectedly in Hong Kong, his empire appears to be up for grabs and his board of directors is frantic. But there's a secret heir in the wings - so secret that even temporary acting director Ann Ferguson (Scott Thomas), Nerio's close collaborator of 20 years, knew nothing of his existence until her boss's sudden death.
But Largo (Sisley), who will be the fifth wealthiest person on earth if and when he successfully takes possession of his late father's 65 percent stake in Winch International, is being held prisoner in a cockroach-infested jail in Brazil on trumped up drugs charges.
As an emergency shareholders' meeting looms, antics set in the present and well-integrated flashbacks introduce a range of characters from loyal to mercenary. Freddy (Melki, with an impressive facial scar) works as Nerio's chauffeur and aide-de-camp. Marcus (Waddington) is in charge of security. Korsky (Roden), a wealthy Georgian arms dealer, is planning a hostile takeover bid on Nerio's holdings. Naomi (Thierry) is Korsky's nubile mistress.
Korsky actually says 'I am the story's bad guy'-- but there just may be a worse baddie out there.
Enigmatic control freak Nerio - whose presence is so strong he even speaks to Largo once from the grave - has set up a challenging labyrinth for Largo and his enemies to navigate, building to multiple twists throughout.
Anthough Largo Winch offers nearly non-stop action across a pleasing range of exotic locations, it's an almost restful, emotionally coherent alternative to the pumped-up likes of Quantum of Solace and Transporter 3. In a National Treasure - but not quite so silly - way, there's no futuristic technology or weaponry on display here, just brains, guts, cars, boats, planes and cell phones, intelligently employed. And that's refreshing.
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Based on the graphic novels by Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq
Kristin Scott Thomas