Film Review: ‘The Love Punch’

If you were one of the many rubbed up the wrong way by Michael Hoffman’s lightweight yet likable crime caper throwback Gambit (2012) a few years back, prepare yourself for the Second Coming. Starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as jet-setting divorcees on a mission to nick back their stolen nest egg (in diamond form), Joel Hopkins’ The Love Punch (2013) is one of those films so implausible that it scuppers any hopes of being in any way ingratiating. Scraping the barrel for laughs revolving around ‘being old’, cat allergies and, when all else fails, Timothy Spall’s digestive tract, it’s only the twinkle-eyed self-parody of former Bond Brosnan that makes this dire Brit-com remotely watchable.

Thompson and Brosnan play Kate and Richard, a once-married couple long divorced after gross fidelity on the latter’s part. Richard is the head of an investment firm, and is shocked to arrive at work one day only to discover his assets stripped by an oily European (start your engines, UKIP supporters). With their plans for a comfortable – if separate – retirement well and truly scuppered, and the future of their uni-bound daughter (Tuppence Middleton) in similar jeopardy, Kate and Richard fly out to the French Riviera to illegally obtain a $10 million diamond bought by the French financier responsible (Laurent Lafitte) for his bride-to-be (Louise Bourgoin). First, however, the pair must find a way to gatecrash the cad’s Cote d’Azur wedding with the help of pals Jerry (Spall) and Penelope (Celia Imrie).

What begins as a cloying but just-about-conceivable jaunt on the continent slowly descends into a farce of such fatuous magnitude that Johnny English would be proud to call it his own. After trying – and failing – to confront the fiscal-fleecing Frenchman at work, the two Brits eventually hatch a master plan to steal from the rich and give to themselves, exploiting his love affair with his soon-to-be trophy wife (the apex of which is the ludicrously expensive rock bestowed onto her) our of a joint sense of moral righteousness. An anti-Brussels agenda is just about discernible at the start of proceedings, but is swiftly dropped in favour of scenes depicting Brosnan’s forlorn puppy dog cosying up to his icy ex-wife. Can they possibly work through their differences whilst orchestrating one of the most complex diamond heists of recent times?

In terms of support, the considerable talents of both Imrie and Spall are inexplicably squandered by Hopkins throughout (for more of Spall, look out for Mike Leigh’s upcoming J.M.W. Turner biopic), with The Love Punch better off as a whole when the two of them are left to chatter amongst themselves. Their relationship is easily the more lifelike, with gentle sniping almost worthy of Roger Michel’s Le Week-End (2013) drowned out by a cacophony of Brosnan’s exhalations and Thompson’s castigations. With zero chemistry between the couple that actually matter (where the plot is concerned), Hopkins’ holiday from hell stutters its way to a conclusion signposted from the minute one. Unlike Susanne Bier’s vastly superior Love Is All You Need (2012) – also starring Brosnan – this is one last tango neither earned nor warranted.

Daniel Green

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