Five years after the romantic drama "Last Chance Harvey," British filmmaker Joel Hopkins reteams with Emma Thompson for a caper set on the Côte d'Azur.
The writer-director's affection for characters in late middle age is clear, but it's not enough to overcome the creaky contrivances of wannabe screwball "The Love Punch." Neither are Thompson and Pierce Brosnan, although they have droll charm to spare. As a long-divorced couple who scheme to exact revenge on a dastardly one-percenter, they make the film more watchable than the screenplay and direction warrant.
The just-go-with-it premise involves a ludicrous plan to steal a $10-million diamond from a French bride during her mega-deluxe wedding. The groom is the hedge fund manager who bought and then liquidated the company headed by Richard (Brosnan), wiping out the soon-to-retire exec's pension and that of his ex-wife, Kate (Thompson). After confronting the unapologetic wheeler-dealer in Paris, they concoct the jewel-heist plot and enlist their friends (Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie, both very good) to help them infiltrate the shindig, posing as wealthy, cartoon-gauche Texans.
Hilarity doesn't quite ensue, unless the unconvincing sight of four middle-aged people scaling cliffs and chateau walls is what gets you going. A running joke concerning the secret past adventures of Spall's character plays out nicely, though, and avoids the 50-plus pandering that infects much of the hit-and-miss slapstick.
With their unforced magnetism, Brosnan and Thompson are persuasive as exes who still have chemistry. (Marisa Berenson cameos as a hotelier who nudges them together.) They have the verve and comic chops to ignite sparks, à la Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, but this "Punch" never truly connects.
"The Love Punch."
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and rude humor.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
Playing: at AMC Century City 15.