The Burma Conspiracy (Largo Winch II): Film Review

Bombastic jungle-set thriller gets lost in the brush.

Sharon Stone stars in Jerome Salle and Julien Rappeneau's sequel -- which also features "The King's Speech" composer Alexandre Desplat's original score -- becomes a story told with third-world schmaltz.

PARIS — This second attempt to turn billionaire heir Largo Winch into a bona fide crime fighter fairs no better than its predecessor, suffering from the same narrative inconsistencies, expensively ineffective filmmaking and an overwhelming sense of déjà-vu -- especially for anyone who grew up watching action movies in the ‘80s. While the 2008 original managed to gross a decent $14 million in France, it only cashed in another $3 million overseas. The Burma Conspiracy (Largo Winch II), despite a niftier title and the bizarre presence of Sharon Stone, will likely land on similar ground.

As if trying to correct some of the last version’s flaws — particularly the fact that it’s hard to put stock in a character whose sole raison d’être is keeping his wealth intact -- returning writer-director Jerome Salle (Anthony Zimmer, remade as The Tourist) and co-writer Julien Rappeneau try a more sentimental approach, turning this sequel into a tale of third-world schmaltz. As for the adrenaline rush one could expect from a European co-production costing upwards of $30 million, there’s little here that hasn’t already graced the work of Chuck Norris or Sylvester Stallone, minus the credible stunts but with plenty of generic gunplay.

Based roughly on two of the comic books in the Belgian series created by Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme, the story begins by flashing back before the start of the last film to the time when Largo Winch (Tomer Sisley) was living in a remote forest in Burma, where he was enjoying a bucolic love affair with a villager named Malunai (Mame Nakprasitte). Through a rather complicated series of transactions and double-crossings that the script fails to entertainingly detail, Malunai’s people are wiped out by a mercenary general (Nirut Sirichanya) allegedly bankrolled by Winch’s father just prior his death.

Three years later, Winch now runs his dad’s Hong Kong-based, multinational powerhouse, whose market value is estimated at $53 billion. As if trying to out-philanthropize both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, he suddenly decides to sell off the entire company and transfer the proceeds to his own charitable foundation. But before that happens, the mess in Burma comes back to haunt him via Diane Francken (Stone), a prosecutor who wants to tie the Winch corporation to the village massacre, using Malunai as a key witness.

With its major set-pieces taking place in a cartoonish jungle compound straight out of Missing in Action (or the recent Rambo, which dealt with the Burmese conflict in its own questionable manner), and with a ridiculous midair fight sequence that makes skydiving look as easy as pouring a cup of coffee, the film hardly showcases the action chops one expects from such a globe-trotting comic book fantasy.The addition of Stone as a powerful member of the International Criminal Court is borderline laughable, and the scenes where she faces down Winch are so ill-handled that the air fizzles out of them after a few lines.

Although the widescreen cinematography by Denis Rouden (36) renders the eye-catching Thailand locations colorfully enough, the omnipresent music by the hardworking Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech, The Ghost Writer) doesn’t make it any more thrilling. Combined with some gaping holes in the plot (such as the idea that the ICC doesn’t have a single security guard at night), there’s not much to root for, and that goes for Winch himself: The fact that he’s a rich kid with a heart doesn’t make him any more of a hero.

Opens: In France on Feb. 16
Production companies: Pan-Europeenne, Wild Bunch, TF1 Films Production, Casa Productions, LW Production, Climax Films, RTBF (Television belge), Wild Bunch Germany
Cast: Tomer Sisley, Sharon Stone, Ulrich Tukur, Mame Nakprasitte, Olivier Barthelemy, Laurent Terzieff, Nicolas Vaude
Director: Jerome Salle
Screenwriters: Julien Rappeneau, Jerome Salle
Based on the comic books by: Jean Van Hamme, Philippe Francq
Producer: Nathalie Gastaldo
Director of photography: Denis Rouden
Production designer: Laurent Ott
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Costume designer: Gabrielle Binder
Editor: Stan Collet
Sales Agent: Wild Bunch
No rating, 118 minutes