Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Love Punch: Where’s the Pink Panther When We Need Him?

Due diligence is a general business term for the standard practice of verifying everything is on the up-and-up before engaging in a long-term contractual arrangement. For instance, Richard Jones might have at least googled the French outfit he sold his company to. Instead, he blithely signed on the dotted line and received a nasty surprise when the company and his entire pension were plundered. On the plus side, he will have time to reconnect with his ex-wife and fellow wiped out pensioner when they pursue a little payback in Joel Hopkins’ The Love Punch (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Jones was scheduled to retire one week after the transfer, but when he arrives at work he finds the offices padlocked. Not only did he sink his entire pension in the company, he also convinced all his co-workers and his ex, Kate, to do the same. Yet, Jones does not even have a contact name at the French conglomerate he somehow made the deal with. After an awkward conversation with Kate, they skype their hacker college student son to get some intel. It turns out the robber baron in question is Vincent Kruger, who just purchased the world’s largest diamond as a wedding gift for his fiancée, Manon.

Since the most famous diamond on earth will be a snap to fence for first time thieves, the Joneses (she kept his name for convenience sake) set out to steal it. They will enlist their mutual pals, Jerry and Penelope, to impersonate two Texan couples Kruger hopes to do business with. In the process, Kate unexpectedly befriends the ditzy but decent Manon.

Sadly, Punch’s humor is just as dumb as its business sense. It is rather painful watching Emma Thompson try to maintain her dignity. Still, her pleasant chemistry with Pierce Brosnan is about the only thing that works in the film. When Hopkins is not going for yucks, their couple stuff feels kind of real. It is also somewhat depressing to watch Brosnan suffering the aches a pains of late middle age, but as he himself admits, he was never a very good James Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies was by far his best, due largely to Michelle Yeoh).

Ordinarily, Timothy Spall is always the saving grace of a misfiring b-movie, such as Assassin’s Bullet, but his shtick as a former international adventurer-turned inconspicuous homebody might actually make matters worse. As Manon, Loise Bourgoin follows the same playbook she used in The Girl from Monaco, but it seems downright restrained here.

Thompson and Brosnan could have made a very good film playing a divorced couple that starts sparking again, but they are simply overwhelmed by Hopkins’ slapsticky screenplay. It is a shame to waste the inviting French Riviera locations on such a clownish mess, but hopefully the talented cast had a chance to enjoy the sights. Not worth hating on, but certainly not recommended for anyone, The Love Punch opens this Friday (5/23) in New York.