Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch

Typically estate law is not the most thrilling subject matter. However, a multi-billion dollar legacy and a secret heir make things slightly more interesting. A mysterious Bosnian industrialist’s hitherto unknown son will fight for his inheritance in The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (trailer here), Jérôme Salle’s adaptation of the popular French graphic novel, which opens this Friday in New York.

Nerio Winch was one secretive old dog. He was also worth billions, but he was just murdered. The directors of the W Group, in which Winch was the majority shareholder, want to keep the circumstances of his death under wraps, concerned about the power void he presumably left. However, board member Ann Ferguson has a bombshell to drop. Winch secretly adopted a son in the former Yugoslavia, who stands to inherit everything. The legal terms are intentionally complex, in order to thwart any possible inheritance taxes. Further complicating matters, the prodigal son is currently cooling his heels in a Brazilian prison on trumped up drug trafficking charges.

Spanning the globe, Apparent takes place in the old world Balkans and the contemporary Hong Kong, where Winch International is based, making stops in Brazil and Malta. Strangely though, despite all the time spent in HK, there are very few Asian characters in the film. Still, Salle capitalizes on the exotic locale, staging his climatic fight scene against a dramatic panoramic view of the HK cityscape. Indeed, he has a real knack for staging wide angle action sequences.

Apparent is hardly King Lear, but it is enjoyable in an old school Tony Scott kind of way. It is also intriguing to see Bosnian actor Miki Manojlovic as shrewd old Nerio, a role that strangely parallels his character in Danis Tanović’s Cirkus Columbia, scheduled for an American release early next year. Indeed, both films address issues of absentee fatherhood and a problematic legacy. A great actor, Manojlovic brings genuine gravitas and a touch of class to the proceedings.

Kristin Scott Thomas also once again proves to be a reliably entertaining corporate shark, ice cold but still pretty hot as Ferguson. Unfortunately, Steven Waddington’s turncoat security chief is a rather colorless villain, but Mélanie Thierry (so good in Bertrand Tavernier’s Princess of Montpensier) is appropriately seductive as the film’s femme fatale of several names. In the lead, Tomer Sisley holds it together well enough and carries off the action quite credibly, even though he is not especially dynamic in the straight dramatic scenes.

Fortunately, Salle understands the need to keep things charging ahead. Despite some howling melodramatic excesses (or perhaps partly because of them), Apparent is a whole lot of fun. Super slick and glossily stylish, it should well satisfy high-end action fans when it opens this Friday (11/18) in New York at the Cinema Village.