Jerome Salle writes and directs this sequel to 2008’s Largo Winch based on the Belgium comic of the same name. Is it worth seeing? Andy Boxall finds out.
The Burma Conspiracy’s alternative title of Largo Winch II reveals it to be a sequel to 2008’s The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch, a series based on a Belgian comic book which follows the adventures of an unwitting billionaire. Concerned you won’t know what’s going on because you haven’t seen the first? Don’t be, as for the most part this works as a standalone story.
While living in the Burmese jungle, Largo Winch, played by a returning Tomer Sisley, suddenly inherits a business empire from his murdered step-father, with whom he has had hardly any contact. Rather than take the money and have a great time, Winch decides to sell-off the company and feed the money into charities, but his plans are interrupted when he’s accused by top UN agent Diane Francken, played by Sharon Stone, of committing crimes against humanity during his stay in Burma.
Of course, with the word conspiracy in the title, it’s hardly a stretch to guess the charges are false and it’s up to Winch and dozens of incidental characters to sort it all out.
After the first ten minutes, it’s clear The Burma Conspiracy has taken much of its inspiration from the Bourne series, with a further hint of James Bond, and the tiniest dash of numerous Jason Statham films. Everything’s here: Glitzy international locations – Thailand, Hong Kong, England and more – big production values, big action sequences and a brooding leading man.
That’s a recipe for success in my book, but unfortunately, The Burma Conspiracy has sewn all the parts together with a contrived and confusing plot, a dry script and some uninspiring performances. What should have been a fun, zesty little dish is actually a stodgy old bowl of rice; nothing new and in need of some spice.
Take the action set pieces for example. There’s a very Bond-esque car chase right at the start, but shot in that irritating post-Bourne method of shaking the camera uncontrollably and cutting every 5 seconds, so no-one has a clue what’s going on. The hand-to-hand fights suffer in the same way, and they’re simply not exciting enough. The one exception is an exhilarating freefall fight that ends up being the movie’s standout set piece.
Along with the – often very good – international locations, comes many international actors, with varying degrees of success. Sisley is a natural for a character like Winch and he carries the film well, while Sharon Stone, on the few occasions she pops up, seems to have been told to ensure everyone remembers she was in Basic Instinct.
All the rest, from Winch’s love-interest Mulanai to the evil General Min, struggle to deliver natural performances as they’re not given the option to speak in their own language, but instead must speak in English. This really shouldn’t be a problem, but here it’s just not handled very well, and soon becomes distracting. Odd in a film that already has both English and subtitled French dialogue.
Plot-wise there are too many twists and turns and too many incidental characters, and points such as Winch’s prowess at driving/fighting/surviving/piloting are never explained for those who haven’t seen the first film. After all, he’s not a secret agent or a super-cool getaway driver, he’s just some rich bloke and it would be good to know where he learnt his skills.
The Burma Conspiracy isn’t terrible, but its sporadic action scenes and excellent locations aren’t enough to stop you from losing interest after an hour, then catching the final five minutes to confirm you were right about what was going to happen.
While it’s refreshing to see a European production try to take on Hollywood with a big-budget action film, it would be preferable to see it go in its own direction rather than try to emulate established franchises. There’s potential in the Largo Winch character, so perhaps the third installment will be the tight, exciting thriller The Burma Conspiracy clearly hoped to be.