DVD Releases: ‘Largo Winch’

A conspiracy-thriller in the mould of a Bourne movie, Largo Winch (2008) is a predominantly French production based on a comic book series by Belgian writer/artist team Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme. The big screen adaptation features an international cast and a variety of exotic locations, as the estranged, secretly-adopted son of an assassinated billionaire businessman tries to prove his identity and inherit his father’s company.

The reasoning behind this covert adoption is never satisfactorily explained beyond “he liked to keep his secrets”. Presumably Winch Sr. (Miki Manojlovic) wanted to avoid the kind of press that Madonna or the Pitt-Jolies get when they acquire ragamuffin foreign orphans.

The mysterious child is our title character, now an adult and played by Tomer Sisely, whose face was carved by master-craftsmen from the finest mahogany, is recalled from a wandering South American sabbatical to take his father’s place at the head of the multi-national ‘Winch International Group’, just in time to prevent a hostile take-over by the Russian Korsky (Karel Roden). There also appears to be some corporate espionage going on, with spies in both camps.

Among the boardroom politics, Ann Ferguson (Kristin Scott Thomas) has taken temporary control of the company. Scott Thomas seems to have spent half of her career speaking French, so I was almost surprised to hear her deliver her lines in that brittle English voice that she’s made her own. Although, Sisely’s wooden performance aside, non of the actors are anything less than decent, Scott Thomas sticks out like a sore thumb as a ‘proper actor’ (though I’d like to draw attention to her fellow Brit, Benedict Wong, who you may recognise from Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007), a tiny cameo in Moon (2009), and the criminally underrated sketch-comedy, The Peter Serafinowicz Show).

There are plenty of twists and red herrings in the plot to keep the genre-fanatics sated, and while a couple of the character motivations seemed a little hazy, I’ve few proper complaints with that department. There are, however, disappointingly few real action sequences, and too many car chases, while Largo’s character veers from devil-may-care to dutiful son rather too quickly.

Director Jérôme Salle delivers a competent effort; not groundbreaking, but there’s enough to suggest the Frenchman may go on to greater things in future (Largo Winch is only his second feature). I noted with a certain amount of satisfaction that the hand-to-hand combat in the film is much more compelling than in The Bourne Identity (2002), a film from which Largo Winch evidently takes a huge amount of inspiration. As previously noted, however, Sisely lacks the talent and charisma to really make the film work on a higher level than a standard genre piece.

Largo Winch isn’t likely to be remembered in a few years as a great movie, and though it made little impression in cinemas (movie website Box Office Mojo doesn’t even have a record of its performance), I hope it finds its audience on DVD. It’s an ambitious attempt at a real quality Hollywood-style thriller, and there are certainly audiences out there who will love it.

David Sugarman