I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Largo Winch

tn_largowinch(here’s another one I watched because it played at ActionFest this year)

Largo Winch (Tomer Sisley) is an unusual hero: he’s a globetrotting adventurer and/or vagabond, he knows how to fight and how to escape, he likes to rebel against authority, tends to fall for beautiful aid worker women helping the poor… and he’s the CEO of a huge Hong Kong-based international corporation called the W Group.

Well, not at the beginning of the movie. As we begin the Group’s founder Nerio Winch (Miki Manojlovic) is pulled off his yacht by a scuba diver and suffocated underwater. We don’t know who the diver is or who sent him, but there are alot of suspects. There’s alot of super-rich-people shenanigans going on including a notorious gun runner planning a hostile takeover of the Group and the company’s board fighting over who should take control of the company.

mp_largowinchWhat they didn’t know until their boss’s death was that he had a contingency plan for this occasion: he had secretly adopted this kid Largo and had him groomed to take over the company. That doesn’t mean sending him to business school, though, it means sending him to a hidden island. He can boat there, but it has a secret entrance like the Batcave. Most people would never find it. This movie makes business seem thrilling like a James Bond movie.

It’s based on a Belgian comic book. I guess the author Jean Van Hammer created the character in a series of novels, but they didn’t do very well so he turned them into the graphical comic book novels. This first movie is adapted from the first one, “The Heir,” and there’s a part 2 coming soon.

The feel is more pulp adventure novel than what people would associate with a comic book. But there is one magical touch that I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be taken literally or not. When we first meet Largo he’s getting an “invincibility tattoo,” a picture of a dragon. The artist just has to finish the eye when Largo hears a woman getting harassed outside. So he doesn’t finish the tattoo, he goes out, fights some guys and makes a daring motorcycle escape.

After that there’s nothing supernatural in the movie, but Largo sure does survive alot of scrapes. And the way his tattoo gets “finished” is a great moment in the story.  It does kinda seem like he’s invincible, but I guess the jury’s out on whether it was caused by a magic tattoo. (Is that what the girl with the dragon tattoo was up to also? This keeps coming up.)

See, there’s alot of people that want to make sure Largo doesn’t take over the company. And it doesn’t seem like he’d want to do it either, but it’s what he was raised for and since he suspects somebody killed Nerio he at least wants to take advantage of this opportunity to find out who did it.

So alot of the movie involves board rooms, shareholder meetings, press conferences, back room deals, corporate espionage, double/triple/quadruple/infinity crosses and legal maneuvering. Largo is smart enough to navigate this world, but it’s not his home because he’s, as one person who doesn’t want him running the company calls him, “a wild adventurer.” So you also got Largo travelling to multiple continents getting involved in foot and car chases, shootouts, prison escapes, running along the edge of a cliff with a helicopter chasing after him, shit like that. He knows how to use a fist, a gun or the pocket knife Nerio gave him when he was a kid. When he meets with the company he seems like kind of an asshole for coming in wearing jeans and a t-shirt with his handsomely disheveled head of hair, but hey, it’s hot out there, he’s running around alot, he should wear something comfortable.

He has a whole team of sidekicks, including a scar-faced guy who’s looked after him for Nerio since he was a kid, plus some people at the company and some family members. It’s cool to have people like that you can count on, but it turns out a whole lot of people have dollar signs in their eyes (or whatever currency they use, this is an international corporation as I said). It starts to get upsetting that everybody is out to get him. So many people that seem like good allies doublecross him, it’s just depressing. It’s like if Batman got screwed over by Alfred, Robin, the Morgan Freeman guy, Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon all in a couple days. But when it’s all over there are a couple non-traitors left in the world so I guess it’s okay. There’s still a ray of sunshine left.

It’s kind of funny how many billionaire comic book heroes there are. Bruce “Batman” Wayne (SPOILER) fights crime by night and runs a company mostly as a front. Tony “the Iron Man” Stark runs an arms manufacturing company  but likes to fly around in a supersuit. The Green Hornet is a rich party kid who decides to do something with his money after his dad dies. And Richie Rich is overdue for a gritty reboot.

These are old characters, but is the “what if I had all the money I needed to do whatever I want?” fantasy a modern one too? In a way it is because for the last decade there have been so many of these reality shows about the daughters and sons of rich hotel owners, lawyers and rock stars, and how wonderful their lives are of shopping and starting clothing labels and shit. Those stories appeal to people because we hate having to punch a clock and we wish we could just spend the day doing whatever lazy bullshit we want, although in our case it wouldn’t be making sex videos and buying shoes. We’d have to make better use of our time than those assholes. But we’d be able to sleep in.

Largo Winch is a little different from that because although he can kick ass, ride a motorcycle and jump off tall things his training was all business related. His super power is being able to run a company and survive all the backstabbings, lit and fig. And he didn’t spend his childhood in pampered indoor luxury. He travelled around, looks like mostly living in impoverished areas. Those are his people. I’m sure that safety net of a super-rich adopted father couldn’t have hurt him in his travels, though.

To me a blue collar hero is more appealing, a guy who never has it easy and has had to work hard all his life. But for a rich guy this Largo seems to be down. I liked this movie. It’s beautifully shot in varied exotic locations, the action is pretty good, the guy is suave and cool like Mesrine minus the murder and always seems to be one step ahead of the convoluted schemes against him.

The movie jumps around in time and uses multiple languages (Largo speaks both French and English) but never seems pretentious or overly serious.

I wonder what his company does, anyway? That’d be funny if they made t-shirts and that’s why Largo dresses casually. I don’t know much about ’em, I just know they’re in a tall sleek looking building in Hong Kong. Maybe they should sell invincibility tattoos. They’d make a fortune.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 at 2:21 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

20 Responses to “Largo Winch”

  1. Good review for a good movie Vern. Thought this film was pretty well plotted and the reveal of the bad guy – the one on the phone to Nerio at the beginning of the film – really shocked me. It was a good “origins” tale and I’m looking forward to seeing the next installment.

  2. I don’t remember the comics having any supernatural element. Certainly not an invicibility tattoo. Maybe at some point he has sex with a gypsy girl and then she tells him that he has a special life line or something but that’s it. I guess too many people complained that the comics were unrealistic because he never dies. Some people in France don’t get that it’s supposed to be some kind of James Bond/Batman fantasy thing anyway, and think it should be realistic. So the filmmaker felt that he had to explain why Largo can survive anything and it can’t just be “because he’s an action hero”, so he came up with the tattoo thing. Anyway, I didn’t like the film too much, but maybe I’m biased against Tomer Sisley because he used to be a stand up comedian and I don’t really buy him as an action hero. Also he used to steal material from Bill Hicks and that’s not cool.

  3. I love the “spoiler” tag beside Bruce Wayne. Beautiful!

    I will definitely look this one up, sounds like just my kind of film.

    Personally I’ve always regarded Batman as a kind of rich kid’s fantasy, which I guess is why he’s never really resonated with me personally. (Although I do love the last two films.) When you find yourself empathising more with the anarchist villain than the good guy, it’s a problem.

  4. Always a fun prompt: If I had a billion dollars, first thing I’d do would be. . . 

    For me it’s buying a property in Hawaii, a modest, earthquake- & storm-proof house with a cinema room and a full sized indoor basketball court in the backyard with a/c, a water fountain, and a bench.  And maybe enough room for a small squad of cheerleaders, you know, for special basketball occasions, like Fridays.  I’d import the cheerleaders from Malaysia, or I’d hire the ladies who don’t quite make the cut to be a Laker Girl.  We’d do a photo calendar, for charity, for the kids.  

    This Largo cat seems cool.  Rich people piss me off sometimes.  Why is it that so many people think wealth automatically equates to professional fashion sense?  You’ve got 8 figures in the bank?  Stitch your initials in the ass of some Wranglers and resell it for $120 a pair.  You have a reality TV show?  Grind some petunias in this isopropyl and resell it for $120 an ounce.

    Anyway, this looked like a pretty good action movie to me.  Glad to hear it doesn’t suck, even though I had never heard of it before 2 weeks ago.  

    Sorry, the following selection of words might sound like bragging or comparing myself to 007 or something, but it’s not supposed to be.  I babble this babbling because I worry that one day everything will bore me, even BADASS CINEMA, and the keyboard is my therapist who always listens.  See, somewhat like Largo W, I’ve already been victorious, and on the good guy side I like to believe, of several foot chases, helicopter chases, vehicle chases, cliff-edge chases, and shootouts.  I never had to escape, but I picked off a couple prison escapees in the desert a couple years back.  Never used a knife on somebody, though, and I regret it because I had my chance once but pussied out & went with the .45 instead because my arms were less than 100% and I didn’t trust myself because I hadn’t slept much in the days before.  

    It never felt like a wild adventure, either, except maybe for a few seconds here & there (like when the wind is blowing in your face and the guy next to you charges his assault rifle and the bird takes a sharp turn and reveals the landscape surrounding the objective as your DETCO shouts “60 seconds!”), but it might be fun to be double-crossed by somebody and deal with it.  Maybe if I had footage of all this shit, I could condense it down to a couple hours and it’d be a decent adventure movie, but it never felt that way before.  It’s been mostly boring and dirty.  

    Maybe I skipped that stage of reading pulp or fantasy or graphic funny papers when I was younger, being too busy with sports & partying probably, and delayed & sublimated that yearning for danger (& invincibility from bullies or ill-defined oppressive forces?) & world travel escapism shit (that compels nerds to read nerd shit & play D&D) in a way that led to certain death wish-y choices, almost squandering my upper-middle class privilegedness, and now I’ve settled down, expended the bloodlust, and have come to enjoy a lot of that nerd shit that is chiefly the realm of nerd teenagers.  

    A lot of nerd shit is suddenly fun & useful to me, though I’m surely not its target demographic.  Apparently, I’m working backwards.  Soon I might get into Pokemon.  

    Anyway what I’m saying is, this guy Largo and Lisbeth Salander should fight, and I’d bet on Lisbeth because her tattoo is already proven to be some invincible God shit.  

  5. Vern — I actually fear our relationship with rich, moral playboys is somewhat uglier. As much as Americans are undeniably stuck under the boot of the super rich, our obsession with them and their obvious power over us creates a very specific sort of power dynamic. In a society were value is so often measured in terms of financial success, they represent the paragon of what Americans strive for. But in order to make sense with our ideals about fairness and work ethic, we need to be able to believe that wealthy people earned it, or deserve it, and that (by extention) we could earn it too. Children of wealth face the unenviable task of convincing us an obviously unfair system makes sense as is worth investing our life in.

    These fantasies (Batman, Iron Man, etc) of the super-rich using their unearned wealth for the greater good (but not redistributing it) reaffirm our belief that individual greatness and help us make sense out of the divide between what we aspire to be and what that aspiration actually looks like in real life. So in some ways, our playboy vigilante fantasies keep people from rejecting the Randian dream that there’s any kind of justice to a system which distributes worth as inequitably as ours does. Heck, its funny to read this review of LARGO WINCH (which I haven’t seen) the same week ATLAS SHRUGGED comes out, becuase it sounds so much like a typically paranoid Rand narrative of a great individual being torn down by a bunch of people jealous of his power.

    You could make the arguement that they are also representative of America as a nation. As America’s insane good luck of the last century sours a bit, more and more, we’re perpetually reminded that America got where it is not so much because its great genius, but because it was in the right place at the right at the right time and ran with it.

    Virtually everyone in any power position today was born into a country that was already the richest and most powerful in the world. So how do you justify that? Try to earn it by arguing that we represent the moral paragon, and then enforce that moral paradigm elsewhere in the world when it becomes threatened in one way or another. Hard-partying Tony “Iron” Man is a smartass hedonist who did nothing to earn what he has but is also plagued by guilt and self-hate. How does he find his value? Finding the right asses to kick validates his existence and justifies the excess he’s been given. Pretty American.

  6. Yes, but Mouth, have you ever driven a motorcycle in a rainstorm past the funeral of your buddy who you couldn’t save even though everyone says it wasn’t your fault and had black-and-white flashback memories of things that just happened ten minutes ago in color?

    I kid, but it’s always interesting to hear your reports from the real side of the shit we watch movies about. We tend to think of our professional badass as fitting into either the cocky or broody categories so it’s cool to hear about all the nuances and shit.

    Also, if your dreamhouse doesn’t have a library with one of them rolling ladders in it you got ripped off.

  7. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    April 19th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Mouth> When you regress back to Pokemon, please explain how that shit works. I realised I’d got old when I watched a Pokemon cartoon many years ago and didn’t have a clue what had just happened. Also, the double O seven stuff, did it feel like a movie/fantasy or just another day on the job? I only ask because every close shave and near miss I’ve had never felt like a movie or comic at the time. Of course, when it comes to story time over a round of drinks it all spills out as a tale of epic proportions.

  8. Good call, Mr. M, but a rolling library ladder would just get me in trouble, as I’d try to imitate Jackie Chan in SHANGHAI KNIGHTS and surely injure someone.  My library will need padded flooring then.  

    Ace Mac, it sounds like you have some fine stories of your own.  Training, indoctrination of the Warrior Ethos (That’s seriously what it’s called in the US Army.), and the burdens of equipment & the looming need to report every move (especially EoF incidents, CDE, & BDA) via cumbersome communications systems to a pervasively bloated chain of command in my experience unfortunately have combined with the whole “Don’t try to be a fuckin’ hero” mantra of my senior leaders to impinge upon my ability to enjoy brushes with death as though they are a video game or some dramatic fiction.  The adrenaline rush of the instant seems to go directly toward reaction speed and an inclination to protect & assist the guys to my left & right, and almost never to the enjoyment of the moment or what Frank Miller might call “a heightened sense of things.”  But of course when I get drunk & play Call of Duty, I tell everyone it’s a perfectly accurate simulation of being in “the shit.”  

    Mr. S, that’s nicely said, but now I’m not sure you are invited to my 4th of July soiree. Tony Starks is also pro-cheerleader (inflight entertainment), and so he is a great American.  

  9. Mr S – so now you guys know what White Imperialist Guilt feels like. The British have had it for the last four hundred years… now it’s your turn!

  10. I tend to agree with your argument, Mr. Subtlety. Although, these wealthy, aristocratic protagonists aren’t quite as dangerous as the 19th century Horatio Alger story where a poor person impossibly pulls himself up by his bootstraps and becomes one of the wealthy. These stories told people that the rich were just like them, and only if you could be as awesome as the wealthy, then you could join their ranks. Of course, the Horatio Alger stories had to ignore a whole host of socio-economic systems that prevented just about anyone from moving across class lines. At least these wealthy superheroes have a sense that they, like most of the rich, did not earn their wealth and have to give something back to the world. But at the same time, I do think our general obsession with wealth is dangerous. These stories sometimes feed a sick sort of wish-fulfillment.

  11. there was a really awful PS1 video game based on this character once, I guarantee you I’m the only person that remembers that

    anyway um Mouth, I have to ask, what is it that you do, I think I missed the post where you explained your job

  12. I travel far & wide to obtain, by force if necessary, rare movies, which I give to Mr. Majestyk to copy & sell online.

  13. Well, I’m sorry Griff, but you’re not the only person who remembers the terrible, terrible Largo Winch videogames.
    There was also a crappy tv show that had David Carradine as Nerio Winch in the pilot episode.

  14. haha, I can’t believe someone remembers that

    not that I actually played it mind you, but I read a scathing review of it in a video game magazine once where they said that Largo Winch was like a “poor man’s James Bond”

  15. I think there were actually 2 different games, one for the PS1 and another one for the PS2, and both were terrible, and they were based on the TV show, not on the comic books. And the TV show was very loosely based on the comics and the only interesting part was David Carradine..

  16. Jareth Cutestory

    April 20th, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Mouth: Your fantasy of wealth looks an awful lot like Brett Ratner’s reality. I suspect that you’d play way cooler movies on your in-house jumbotron though.

  17. LARGO WINCH sounds like what a modern update of DOC SAVAGE would be like, would it be fair to say? Only with boardroom stuff instead of science experiments/exploration.
    What happened to Shane Black supposedly doing that? Was it dropped for IRON MAN 3?

  18. RBatty — yeah, I agree with you that at least these fables, unlike the Alger ones, don’t explicitly tell the poor that it’s their own fault. The end result is sort of the same, though, in that the implicit moral is that you can validate a stunning unequal distribution of wealth through greatness of action. And like the Alger stories, they tempt us with the lure of such a lifestyle, as though it is something which could possibly be achieved. It’s not the whole story, of course. I mean, its not Iron Man’s fault that our society is so fucked up. But its probably one tiny part of the puzzle that is people opposing the capital gains tax under the assumption that either they or their children will one day be fabulously wealthy and wish to pay minimal taxes.

  19. It’s just fun to say “Largo Winch,” isn’t it? Largo Winch…

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