After "Ridicule," helmer Patrice Leconte goes from the sublime to the ridiculous with "Half a Chance," a game, if choppy, excuse to reunite Gallic screen icons Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon, 28 years after their joint appearance in "Borsalino."

After “Ridicule,” helmer Patrice Leconte goes from the sublime to the ridiculous with “Half a Chance,” a game, if choppy, excuse to reunite Gallic screen icons Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon, 28 years after their joint appearance in “Borsalino.” Throw in singer-cum-thesp Vanessa Paradis, the Russian mob and lots of stuff that blows up on the Cote d’Azur — and you’ve got a watchable but uninspired programmer that will sell internationally on the strength of its pedigree. Even with huge press coverage, pic did just respectable biz in its opening week domestically.

A month after her mother’s death, Alice (Paradis), who doesn’t know her father’s identity, is released from prison after serving time for stealing expensive sports cars. Before expiring, Mom took the time to record an audiocassette, confessing that 20 years earlier she’d fallen madly in love with two men at the same time, never knowing which gent was Alice’s father.

Picking up where she left off, Alice steals a sports car and heads for the South of France to confront, contrast and compare her two possible progenitors, both semi-retired businessmen. Luxury auto dealer Leo Brassac (Belmondo) and well-to-do Julien Vignal (Delon), who pilots his own helicopter rather than risk conventional traffic jams, take an instant dislike to each other.

They begrudgingly, then joyously, combine forces soon after Alice — pursued by would-be rapists from a local disco — steals a car that happens to have $50 million of Russian Mafia money in the trunk. The mobsters want their money back, but Alice doesn’t have it: Carella (Eric Defosse), the taciturn undercover policeman who’s been tracking the Russkies’ illegal dealings, swiped it. Luckily, Leo is a former Foreign Legionnaire and Julien has secretly engineered some of the biggest unsolved jewel heists on the international scene, so the suddenly dynamic duo revive their arsenal and set out, with Alice, to defy the Russo syndicate.

Story makes only the broadest sense, but provides distraction and some decent stunt work as the trio wreaks phenomenally fortuitous havoc. Although Leo has an old injury near his heart that acts up at crucial moments, one never truly fears for our heroes’ safety, and there’s nary an ounce of surprise. Final chase-cum-escape is entertaining.

Pic will appeal to anyone who doubles over at the thought of suave bon vivants Delon and Belmondo ordering burgers at McDonald’s. Humor is based on the mutual dislike between the aging protagonists, which turns into a joshing bond and grudging respect as they unite to rescue the daughter neither knew he had.

The two leads — he-man Lotharios, now in their mid-60s, dripping with self-esteem — literally duke it out when first introduced, and seem to be having fun mocking their respective bigscreen personas. (They started acting at roughly the same time and came to prominence in 1959-60 — Delon in “Plein soleil” and Belmondo in “Breathless.”) Chemistry between the three leads is superficially enjoyable without being truly convincing.

Leconte, as always, framed his own widescreen compositions — here, in a rare transatlantic collaboration, with Yank lenser Steven Poster — but pic feels frenetic for its own sake rather than lively in a suspenseful, flowing manner. Composer Alexandre Desplat conjures a pleasing variety of musical snippets and playfully interjects the well-known refrain from “Borsalino” when Delon and Belmondo saddle up to go once more into the fray.

Half a Chance

French

Production

A UFD release (in France) of a Christian Fechner presentation of a Films Christian Fechner/UGCF/TF1 Films Prod. production. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Christian Fechner. Executive producers, Herve Truffaut. Directed by Patrice Leconte. Screenplay, Patrick Dewolf, Leconte, Serge Frydman; story idea, Bruno Tardo.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Steven Poster; editor, Joelle Hache; music, Alexandre Desplat; art director, Ivan Maussion; costume designer, Annie Perier-Foulon; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Dominique Hennequin, Joel Rangon; stunt coordinator, Remy Julienne; assistant director, Jean-Marc Tostivint. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite, Paris, Mar. 31, 1998. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Leo Brassac - Jean-Paul Belmondo Julien Vignal - Alain Delon Alice Tomaso - Vanessa Paradis Carella - Eric Defosse Trenchcoat Killer - Alexandre Iakovlev Anatoli Sharkov - Valery Gataev Ledoyen - Michel Aumont (French and Russian dialogue)

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