Wednesday, November 16, 2011

THE HEIR APPARENT: LARGO WINCH -- Yes, they DO make 'em like they used to!

Looking for a movie that has everything-- action, adventure, intelligence, gorgeous scenery (including its girls and guys), love, family and a great plot fairly bursting with intelligence and momentum?  Look no farther. It opens this Friday, and it's the best mainstream/
arthouse movie you've probably never heard of: THE HEIR APPARENT: LARGO WINCH. TrustMovies' main question is: Why has it taken this film three years to reach us? Its sequel is already in the can, for Christ's sake! Still, don't mess with that gift horse. If you, like I, have been wondering why Hollywood can't make a decent action movie -- without endless explosions, car chases and noise, don't worry. Let the French do it.

A few years back a filmmaker named Jérôme Salle (shown at left) wrote and directed a choice little plot-and-character-driven action movie called Anthony Zimmer. We never saw it over here because it was remade, very poorly, for American and international audiences with two supposedly big-cheese performers under the helm of a director of a popular Academy-Award-winning Best Foreign Language Film. The name of that remake was The Tourist, but the original is so much better -- sharper, cleaner, shorter, smarter and better written, acted and directed -- that if you managed to stay awake watching the remake, I suggest you stream Anthony Zimmer off Netflix and compare.

Now Mr. Salle is back with this new film, and while it is offers a more stellar international cast (yes, that's Kristin Scott Thomas, above) and a much larger budget, don't worry about elephantiasis setting in. The movie-maker keeps things lean and mean, smart and sassy. Comparisons have been made to the early James Bond films, and while they are somewhat apt, Largo Winch is the better film because it resists camp. It takes itself and its characters seriously but with a light heart and a lighter touch. It keeps adventure foremost, and it knows how to serve it up in fine style.

When things turn dark, as they do now and again, the movie doesn't bungle the moment but instead gives it its emotional due. Its tone never wavers from what is appropriate for what's going on. Given the tone-deaf stuff that Hollywood is dishing out these days, this might seem very nearly a miracle.

The cast is particularly well-chosen. In addition to Scott Thomas, we have the great Miki Manojlovic (two photos above), from many of Emir Kusturica's movies, as Largo's dad; Gilbert Melki (above) as his scarfaced, right-hand man, Mélanie Thierry (below, left, and most recently seen as The Princess of Montpensier) as a possible femme fatale; Anne Consigny as his adopted mom; and Karel Roden (at bottom, right) as a naughty Russian oligarch. And that's just for starters.

In the lead role is an actor new to me -- Tomer Sisley (above right and below) -- but whom we shall we seeing much more of, I suspect. Trim but buff, with a handsome face, he's great action star/leading man material, and he is such fun to watch that he, as much as anything or anyone, keeps the movie on track. (In addition, he is said to have done all his own stunts in this film. Yikes!)

The plot has to do with the usual coupling of high finance and low morals, and it moves quite speedily, so you must keep apace. But the surprises are many and the rewards, as I think I've made clear by now, are great.

The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (from Music Box Films, 108 minutes, spoken in French, English and Croatian, with English subtitles when necessary), opens this Friday, November 18, in Berkeley (the Rialto Elmwood) San Francisco (the Balboa Theater), Santa Monica (Laemmle's Monica Four) and New York City (the Cinema Village). Word-of-mouth should be damn good, so look for it to expand elsewhere soon. Click here, then scroll down, to see upcoming playdates around the country. More will surely follow.

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