JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (Director: Jérôme Salle) - November 16, 2011

The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch

4 4
108 min.

Succession planning for the 1%

Much is in the news these days regarding the “Occupy” movement. In cities all around the globe, those who aren’t actually participating are revelling or despairing (depending on which side of the regime they’re on) as long-standing dictators and despots lose power and sometimes their lives. Is all of this turmoil driven by ideology or do the 99% who cannot count themselves amongst those on the planet who have accumulated far more money than they can ever spend (but could lose if the value underscoring their assets either vanishes as fast as you can say “RIM” or is “stolen”—either literally or through hostile takeovers) only suffer from net worth envy?

Those with immoveable scruples could never set foot in a cinema playing director Jérôme Salle’s fanciful interpretation (thanks in part to co-writer Julien Rappeneau) of the original graphic novels and comic books by Jean Van Hamme and Phillipe Francq. For the rest of us, it’s a film that flies through its frantic pace with the greatest of ease, delivering a couple of real surprises along with set pieces that pay sincere homage to Ian Fleming’s James Bond books—what humour can be found is more stirred than shaken and not nearly as dry as 007’s cinematic incarnations.

If the flow of the first twenty minutes could have been kept up, Salle would have created a masterpiece of the thriller genre for all time. Nonetheless, few will come away disappointed after the treachery and lechery surrounding the inheritance of billions arrives at its marvellous dénouement. No one will be surprised that The Burma Conspiracy took up the narrative flame and has been released this year.

In the title role, Berlin-born Tomer Sisley proves he has the right stuff in the credibility department due to his rugged good looks, nuanced delivery (“I am heading up the river [Amazon]” being the coy foil to “doing it my way” while breathlessly escaping from a remote, cockroach-infested prison) and commanding presence. He truly wears his nearly completed invincibility tattoo like a badge of honour that soon laughs in the face of all comers.

The plot dances back and forth between the early ‘80s and recent times, picturesque Europe and steely centre-of-commerce, Hong Kong. Knowing that his extreme wealth will one day be the cause of immense turmoil for insiders and insatiable competitor’s alike, Nerio Winch (done up with distinction and savvy determination by Miki Manojlovic—his Yugoslavian roots ensure cultural resonance in the all-important early going) secretly adopts two boys then makes certain that his favourite will have the proper training and education to—when the time comes—claim his fortune and continue the W Group’s dynasty as the biggest of them all.

No one will be surprised that the uncompromising CEO expires before too long in the film, but few will cotton on to just how his passing will be accomplished until the casket is opened for viewing. Salle and his crew deftly capture then combine that moment with many others along Largo’s quest, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats and the bad guys (notably Steven Waddington as evil incarnate Marcus) wondering just what it will take to stop the heir apparent as effectively as his dad.

Intrigue abounds in the personage of Ann Ferguson—Nerio’s ruthless No. 2 who readily appoints herself to head the company in the wake of its founder’s murder but who seems in no hurry whatsoever to step down if and when the legal successor makes his way to the board room (Kirstin Scott Thomas is ideally cast as the cold, calculating executive—miles away from her more recent success in Sarah’s Key, cross-reference below).

Gilbert Melki is the affable go between, Freddy (curiously reminiscent of Bond’s Felix Leiter), having Nerio’s confidence in the succession plan and earning Largo’s as the pair make their way from the lush jungles of Brazil to the concrete terrain of China’s most reluctant island in the sun. Of course no one is a double-crosser, even a damsel in distress who, once rescued, shows all of her appreciation in a very private manner …

Composer Alexandre Desplat is at one with the settings and action, artfully employing a wealth of instruments (and most especially the children’s chorus during the orphanage sequence) that adds a lot to the richness and flow of the film.

For the eye and ear this production has much to recommend it even if the final frames should have been seen coming much sooner than the artistic trust intended. No worries: “Occupy” yourself and enjoy a couple of hours at the expense of the terminally rich. JWR

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