What would you do if you suddenly inherited 20 billion dollars and a corporate empire, but the people responsible for giving it to you are also trying to kill you? Enter the world of Largo Winch, a vagabond international renaissance man whose idyllic wanderings are ended when his adoptive father is murdered and his vast inheritance makes him a target. The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch is a riveting thriller and mystery that follows Largo as he attempts to find his father’s killer while trying to stay alive in a brutal corporate chess game.
The movie begins with the murder of Nerio Winch (Miki Manojlovic), the head of a vast corporate empire stationed in Hong Kong. As the board meets to determine who shall head the company and fend off a corporate takeover, Ann Ferguson, (Kristin Scott Thomas), the lone female member of the board, reveals a shocking development. Nerio had a secret adopted son, Largo (Tomer Sisley), whom he bred from his boyhood to eventually take over the company. Unfortunately, Largo is languishing in a Brazilian prison, after being framed and deceived by a “Léa” (Mélanie Thierry), a seductive woman he spectacularly rescued from thugs. It’s not long before the Winch empire pulls some strings to retrieve Largo, though by the time they arrive Largo has proved he is capable of escaping prison and taking care of himself.
And then it gets really interesting. Largo enters his father’s world with an un-tucked button-up shirt, no tie, and five o’clock shadow – an appearance that reflects his laid back attitude to the stiffs at his father’s company. While the board mocks and belittles him, Largo wastes no time putting them all in their place in a comically brutal fashion. Largo doesn’t care about his father’s company or the money. He just wants to find his father’s killer. As soon as this is revealed, another higher-up in the Winch company is murdered. And to make matters worse, Largo now has to fend off a corporate takeover from a Russian businessman, Mikhail Korsky (Karel Roden).
Largo Winch plays surprisingly like an early James Bond film, with high style, multiple international locales and languages, beautiful women, and thrilling action. But Largo Winch has no gadgets, no guns, and no tired clichés. He is an amazingly resourceful and capable man with nothing but his wits, his father’s knife, and the few trusted connections he has made before his inheritance. Cool under pressure, Largo never panics, even when being chased barefoot by a helicopter.
This is the key element that makes Largo exciting. Largo is a man that can bring down your corporation even if he had no inheritance, for he has relied on himself for so long that privileged resources seem superfluous compared to his natural ability to improvise. In this sense, he is like a spy working for his dead father, needing to answer to no one except his conscience. Sisley is simply brilliant in the role, lending a warm and relaxed persona to the character, who contrasts against his cold and calculating environment.
Indeed it is this warmness to the character that makes him much different than any other rogue spy movie, a comparison the movie begs to make. Largo’s heart is rooted in his love of his foster family made possible by his adopted father, Nerio. He is a good man who knows the joy of owning his own life. By the time he assumes corporate power, he is already above it. He is a complete man with or without the money. This fight is about principle, not corporate or government allegiance. As such, it is a pleasure to watch him, because he seems free, even when he is in prison.
Based on a series of French graphic novels, Largo is the first entry in a burgeoning film franchise. It is a welcome addition. Watching greedy corporate evildoers get their comeuppance will never get old in these corrupt times. For a French character, Largo is surprisingly American in his sensibility. He gives us the thrill of owning an empire while also transcending it, keeping his soul in the process. For Largo, smiling pluck is more powerful than prestige.