The Burma Conspiracy

Far-flung locales look mostly striking, but the far-fetched plot machinations, choppy editing and wildly uneven acting aren't a pretty sight.

With: Tomer Sisley, Sharon Stone, Ulrich Tukur, Mame Nakprasitte, Olivier Barthelemy, Nicolas Vaude, Clemens Schick, Laurent Terzieff, Miki Manojlovic. (French, English, Thai, Karen, Russian, Serbian dialogue)

Daredevil dreamboat billionaire Largo Winch is back in “The Burma Conspiracy,” Gallic helmer Jerome Salle’s second live-action feature about the Belgian comicbook character. This time, Winch goes up against a U.N. prosecutor — played by an often embarrassingly cross-legged Sharon Stone — who accuses him of crimes against humanity committed in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Far-flung locales look mostly striking, but the far-fetched plot machinations, choppy editing and wildly uneven acting aren’t a pretty sight. Locally, fanboys have flocked to this heavily promoted mid-February release, but offshore chances beyond Francophone territories and international satcasters remain slim.

In the first film, hunky go-getter Largo (a steely Tomer Sisley, encoring) inherited a global business empire worth billions after the adoptive dad he hardly knew, Nerio Winch, was brutally murdered. “The Burma Conspiracy” goes back and forth between “three years earlier,” when Nerio (Miki Manojlovic) was still alive, and “three years later,” when a foxy U.N. prosecutor, Diane Francken (Stone), turns up on Largo’s doorstep — actually, his frigate-sized private yacht — to accuse him of being involved in the massacre of a Burmese village. Francken believes Largo was, at the time, working for his dad, as the Winch Corp. had an interest in the region’s minerals, even though the two men were estranged at the time. English-language title does little to hide that this is, of course, all a setup.

A ludicrously over-the-top car chase in a former Soviet republic — clearly inspired by “Quantum of Solace” in its ostentatious first-reel placement, meat-grinder approach to editing and drained color palette — also figures into the entangled storylines, with Salle and co-screenwriter Julien Rappenau again demonstrating they’re adherents of the complicated-rather-than-complex school of plotting and exposition.

The outlandish conspiracy contains too many characters, motives and temporal jumps to keep track of, and personalities such as Largo’s precious butler, Gauthier (Nicolas Vaude), are never convincingly tied into the story. Somewhat awkwardly designed as comic relief, Gauthier spends a good portion of the film either alone or in the company of Simon Ovronnaz (Olivier Barthelemy, looking like an extra from “The Beach”), whom fans of the books will recognize as one of Largo’s buddies.

Much of the narrative seems designed around the action sequences, rather than the other way around. Undoubtedly the reason for the film’s popularity with teenage males, these setpieces are often impressively staged, though a fight sequence after a tumble from a plane — actually filmed with Sisley midair — looks as though it were shot on an iPhone.

This slapdash attention to technical consistency also extends to the editing. Salle proudly showcases the fact that Sisley does all his own stunts in an early mano-a-mano fight in the jungle — using longer takes and clear spatial choreography — only to hack a later scene, in which Largo and his Burmese g.f. (Mame Nakprasitte) are ambushed in their hotel, into incomprehensible bits.

Sisley’s again in his element, and he’s much better at keeping a straight face throughout than Stone, whose character is muddily conceived and never credible; her white dress and the crucial positioning of her legs play more like an ill-conceived parody of than homage to the role that made her famous. Among the large supporting cast, only the late Laurent Terzieff impresses as a hollow-faced friend of Largo’s dad.

Shot in Hong Kong, Thailand, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the U.K. and France, the widescreen actioner at least offers some delicious landscapes, with Salle making especially good use of Thai locations.

The Burma Conspiracy


Production: A Pan-Europeenne, Wild Bunch Distribution (in France)/Cineart (in Belgium)/Wild Bunch Germany (in Germany) release of a Nathalie Gastaldo, Philippe Godeau, Wild Bunch presentation of a Pan-Europeenne, Wild Bunch, TF1 Films Prod., Casa Prods., IW Prod., Climax Films, RTBF, Wild Bunch Germany production, in association with Canal Plus, Cinecinema, with participation of Sgam Ai Cinema 2, Les Editions Dupuis, H&J, Philippe Francq. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Nathalie Gastaldo. Co-producers, Olivier Rausin, Marc Gabizon, Arlette Zylberberg. Directed by Jerome Salle. Screenplay, Julien Rappenau, Salle, based on the graphic novels "Fort Makiling" and "Hour of the Tiger" by Philippe Francq, Jean Van Hamme.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Denis Rouden; editor, Stan Collet; music, Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Laurent Ott; costume designer, Gabrielle Binder; sound (Dolby Digital), Marc Engels; assistant director, Brieuc Vanderswalm; casting, Gigi Akoka. Reviewed at Utopolis, Luxembourg, March 1, 2011. Running time: 118 MIN.

Cast: With: Tomer Sisley, Sharon Stone, Ulrich Tukur, Mame Nakprasitte, Olivier Barthelemy, Nicolas Vaude, Clemens Schick, Laurent Terzieff, Miki Manojlovic. (French, English, Thai, Karen, Russian, Serbian dialogue)

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