Music Box Films // 2008 // 108 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // March 30th, 2012
"I have only one intention: to find out who killed Nerio Winch." -- Largo Winch
Largo Winch isn't a household name in the United States, but sales of the graphic novels -- or bandes dessinee -- by Belgians Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme have topped 12 million, according to Cinebook, which publishes the series in English. Winch is a young, ruggedly handsome heir who turns out to be very good at surviving, which is very good, since everyone seems to want him to follow his father to the grave. The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch, like many a movie derived from the drawn page, restarts the character's saga.
After a bit of backstory about his childhood, we find Largo (Tomer Sisley, Toi et Moi) getting an invincibility tattoo in Brazil. That's good, except that he charged out of the tattoo parlor to rescue a lady in distress (Mélanie Thierry, Chrysalis) before the artist could finish. Winch beds her, and wakes up with more than a hangover -- cops want to put him away for the drugs planted in his room. He's not in prison for long: his handler squares things, although Largo would have busted out anyway. It seems that Largo has a wealthy father -- er, had a wealthy father. Now, Largo has a lot of trouble, because other people want to control his $20 billion fortune.
Tomer Sisley brings an unshaven look -- one that brings dirty looks from the Winch board -- and a brooding quality to the role of Largo Winch. Sisley, as Winch, turns out to be very good at brawling, riding a motorcycle at high speeds, and car chases. That's handy, since that's most of the movie. By the end of the movie, he turns out to be rather sharp as a business type as well. Mélanie Thierry is believable as the apparent heroine in early scenes and seductively nasty going onward.
Once in a while, the film feels derivative. For example, a scene where an apparently dead Largo is on his way to a watery grave gives off a distinctly Bourne-ish vibe. Plot elements such as Largo's secret adoption by the wealthy Nerio Winch could strike viewers as unlikely as well. However, The Heir Apparent moves briskly enough that you won't be thinking about its flaws -- or much of anything.
Presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a transfer that's sharp and clear, just about everything looks travelogue beautiful, whether it's sparkling waters, an ancient monastery, or the glittery nighttime lights of Hong Kong. The mixed language Dolby 5.1 Surround track shifts between English and French, so you could miss a few details of the boardroom maneuvering if you skip the subtitles -- if you're even paying attention to that part.
If you aren't familiar with Largo Winch, the first graphic novel adventure is helpfully included on the DVD. It's not a DVD-ROM, so you'll have to read each page a half at a time. The details are changed, but the first section of the movie largely follows the plot of the graphic novel. Kudos to Music Box Films for letting viewers compare, even if it does whet your appetite for more Largo Winch books. There's also a making-of featurette and a theatrical trailer.
It's not surprising that Sisley returned in 2011 for a sequel, The Burma Conspiracy. If you like your fights and chases against scenic backdrops, you should check out The Heir Apparent.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Graphic Novel
* Official Site