Originally, a French TV movie, Largo Winch: The Heir (2001), based on a Belgian comicbook, which had a Euro-Canadian spin-off TV series as Largo Winch (2001-3), although both TV movie and series had an entirely different cast to this new French-Belgian adaptation. Essentially, a Batman/ James Bond hybrid, it mixes a vigilante detective’s revenge against villains who killed his father, with plenty of globe-trotting espionage antics.
The storyline flits around – from Hong Kong, with the opening sequence of a scuba-diver murdering billionaire Nerio Winch on his luxury ‘houseboat’ in the harbour; and 1980s’ Yugoslavia, where a dodgy deal to adopt a boy from an orphanage takes place; to Brazil, where our titular hero, Largo Winch (Tomer Sisley), is introduced. Largo rescues foreign girl, Léa (Mélanie Thierry, Babylon AD), from gang rape by a local militia, but he then has to escape from prison after she frames him for a crime he did not commit. Only later, does sometimes-hapless, occasionally-smart, Largo discover that Léa is also escort Naomi, the femme fatale of this often melodramatic mega-corporate conspiracy thriller.
There’s a hostile takeover bid led by wealthy corporate raider Korsky (Karel Roden, 15 Minutes, Rasputin in Hellboy), against Winch’s business empire now destabilised by the death of eccentric owner Nerio, while Winch’s boardroom chairwoman, Ferguson (Kristin Scott Thomas, Gosford Park, English Patient), remains seemingly dependent upon disproving the legal validity of a secret CEO inheritance scheme, or disposing of unwelcome heir presumptive Largo, to maintain the integrity of her position and/ or credibility of Winch as corporate entity beholden to the fickle uncertainties of panicky shareholders.
There’s a Croatian funeral flashback, nostalgic reminiscences about Largo’s childhood and tepidly dramatic scenes of Largo’s rebellious confrontations with a domineeringly adoptive father. Humour stems largely from the omniscient efficiency of Largo’s loyal butler Gauthier (Nicolas Vaude), some weak intrigue arises when the Winch family’s scar-faced ‘Mr Fixer’ type assistant Kaplan (Gilbert Melki) apparently plots to betray his new boss Largo, while action sequences – usually featuring contract killer Marcus (Steven Waddington, conforming to stereotype as a British villain) – are just routinely thuggish until brief stuntman excitements of a climactic rooftop death-match fight.
Tomer Sisley (Schoendoerffer’s Paris Lockdown, René Manzor’s Labyrinth) has the heroic appeal, if not the rugged charm, of an international action guy – required for a role like Largo Winch, but Largo Winch the movie is simply packed with 007 clichés (including spectacle of a helicopter flight to a private island hideaway!) and, as such, it delivers only mild comicbook style fun, despite handsome production values, and competent direction with some excellent cinematography. Overall, then, this is just an average timewaster.
A sequel, The Burma Conspiracy (guest-starring Sharon Stone in, one supposes – if judging from the conventions this film – the sort of role she can play on autopilot), is due for release in 2011.