Unfurling in a mix of French, English and Serbo-Croatian, this Gallic adaptation of the best selling series of Belgian graphic novels has shades of James Bond and Jason Bourne and should come with a ready-made cult following. Kristin Scott Thomas as a glacial boardroom fixer should help with star power.
Largo (Tomer Sisley) is an improbably named hero who was adopted from a Bosnian orphanage as a baby by the mega-wealthy Nerio Winch (Miki Manojlovic).
The tycoon is the founder and majority shareholder of the global W Group. As a boy, Largo is kept under wraps and left in the care of a friend of the family. Thirty years later, Nerio is bumped off aboard his luxury yacht in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor, leaving his secret heir to be revealed to the rest of the W Group's board.
The now darkly handsome Largo (Tomer Sisley), who's been travelling the world in denial of the role his adoptive father planned for him, steps forward to claim his $20 billion inheritance.
Although there are plenty of chases, stunts and athletic fights between the protagonists, much of the tussle happens in the boardroom, where the evil Ann Ferguson (Kristin Scott Thomas in menacing mode and an unflattering coif) attempts to thwart the young pretender's rise to the throne.
The most eye-catching action scene involves an impressive helicopter sequence across the island of Malta. Locations in Brazil and Hong Kong are also used to good effect.
Sisley makes an enigmatic hero and delivers his dialogue in both French and English with equal aplomb. The actor, who is German-born with a background in stand-up and television comedy, acquits himself well. There's also a soaring score by the Oscar winning Alexandre Desplat.
The comic book fan base should provide a considerable audience for this adaptation. The film is mainly based on the first two volumes of illustrator Philippe Francq and writer Jean Van Hamme's 16-part series. And it was based on Van Hamme's serial novels from the 1970s, which gives it all a certain longevity.
Salle's direction may not reach the heights of Bourne and Bond but Largo Winch has its moments.
A sequel (known as Largo Winch 11: The Burma Conspiracy) already has been released in France, with Sharon Stone joining Sisley and Company.
Distributor: Music Box Films
Cast: Tomer Sisley, Kristin Scott Thomas, Miki Manojlovic, Mélanie Thierry, Gilbert Melki, Karel Roden, Steven Waddington, Anne Consigny
Director: Jérôme Salle
Screenwriters: Jérôme Salle, Julien Rappeneau
Producer: Nathalie Gastaldo, Phillippe Godeau
Genre: Thriller; French- English- and Serbo-Croatian-languages, subtitle
Running time: 109 min.
Release date: Unset August 2011