Hoping to emulate this year's blockbuster success of La Verite 2, Warner Bros has boarded another potential French hit, Le Boulet (Dead Weight) .

The $21.4m (Ffr158m) action comedy, directed by Alain Berberian (Paparazzi, La Cite de la Peur) from a script by Matt Alexander, is expected to be the highest budgeted French film of 2001. The film is produced by La Petite Reine, the production company of Claude Berri's son Thomas Langmann, as a 50/50 partnership with Warner's French production offshoot PECF (Production et Edition Cinematographique Francaise). Warner Bros holds all rights for France, Belgium and Switzerland.

Under the guidance of Francis Boepflug, a former Gaumont top executive who took over Warner Bros France from Steve Rubin in March 1997, the US studio has revived its local production activities. Says Boepflug "I don't see how a distributor based in France, a country where the film industry is showing so much vitality and local films are performing so well, would not be invoved in local production."

Le Boulet's backers also include French digital satellite operator TPS and public broadcaster France Television (France 2 and France 3). France Television's film sales arm President (President's founder Jacques-Eric Strauss is associate producer) is handling foreign sales duties and has already pre-sold the title to Gaga for Japan.

Le Boulet , which stars Gerard Lanvin and Benoit Poelvoorde is currently shooting in Morocco and will move next to Paris for a six-week shoot. The film is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2002.

Warner is also backing Ni Pour Ni Contre, the next film by Cedric Klapisch (When The Cat's Away, Maybe), a police story to star Vincent Elbaz and Marie Gillain. The film, which is to start shooting in September 2001, is the second in a first-look deal Boepflug signed last year with La Verité 2 producer Vertigo Films.