At one point in The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch, the eponymous hero (Tomer Sisley), the inheritor of a multi billion-dollar fortune fending off a takeover by murderous bureaucrats, is shot and falls into the ocean from a great height, by all appearances dead. Director Jérôme Salle pulls off a stunning shot of Largo’s seemingly lifeless body plummeting through the air — give that stuntman a raise! — and a few minutes later, when he washes up on shore floating face down in the water, there seems to be no way our protagonist would not have drowned.
One of the telltale signs of this ridiculous action picture is that Largo then simply wakes up, shakes his head and proceeds as if nothing had happened. How did he survive that fall? Why did the bullet not kill him? Can he breathe underwater? Who cares? Like Roger Moore-era James Bond pictures, The Heir Apparent is not much for logic or plausibility. This Belgian adaptation of the popular graphic novel is so cartoonish that it would make adequate entertainment for kids, if not for all the sex and violence and overly complicated plot twists involving stock shares and majority holdings.
Sisley, who was cast for his looks and athleticism and not, sadly, for his acting talents, is a likable screen presence in a Jean Claude Van Damme sort of way. He’s OK, as long as he’s keeping his mouth shut. The movie makes the best of its international locales, from Brazil to Hong Kong to Paris to Croatia. But shouldn’t a film be something more than a snazzy travelogue? Kristin Scott Thomas, sporting a blond Louise Brooks wig and an icy demeanor, plays Largo’s assistant. She doesn’t seem to have much to do, until she does: This is the sort of film in which you can anticipate the plot twists simply by paying attention to the order of the names in the credits.
When Largo isn’t outrunning bullets and escaping impossible cliffhangers, he’s clashing with corporate raiders and shady businessmen. This is The Bourne Identity by way of Wall Street, and it’s just as clunky and unsatisfying as that description sounds. The Heir Apparent, which was made in 2008, was enough of a hit in Europe to spawn a sequel, The Burma Conspiracy, co-starring Sharon Stone. Here’s hoping the follow-up never invades our shores: One Largo Winch is more than enough.
Cast: Tomer Sisley, Kristin Scott Thomas, Miki Manojlovic, Melanie Thierry.
Director: Jérôme Salle.
Screenwriters: Julien Rappeneau, Jérôme Salle. Based on the graphic novels by Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Franq.
Producers: Nathalie Gastaldo, Philippe Godeau.
A Music Box Films studios release. Running time: 108 minutes. In French, Croatian and English with English subtitles. Vulgar language, nudity, sexual situations, violence, gore, adult themes. Opens Friday Dec. 9 in Miami-Dade only: Coral Gables Art Cinema.