If "The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch" plays like a graphic novel, it's because it is based on writer Jean Van Hamme's "Largo Winch" series, enormously popular in Belgium and France.
The briskly paced action adventure, directed by Jerome Salle from Julien Rappeneau's script, rips through a thicket of corporate intrigue as the story moves back and forth in time. There are plenty of twists and just as many bad guys speaking in a wide variety of accents. It's handsome, large-scale escapist fare — and has as its costar the formidable, versatile Kristin Scott Thomas.
Set in Croatia and Hong Kong, with a stopover in Mato Grosso, Brazil, "Heir Apparent" turns upon a volatile father-and-son relationship. Can it be an accident that a Hong Kong-based tycoon, Nerio Winch (Miki Manojlovic, star of notable Emir Kusturica films), died in a suspicious drowning just as heretofore undisclosed adopted son Largo (a brooding, rugged Tomer Sisley) finds himself in a Mato Grosso prison, framed for drug-dealing?
Upon Nerio's death his steely, trusted second in command (Thomas, sporting a severe blond wig and dark power suits) discloses the existence of Largo — and her determination to hold together Nerio's conglomerate and fend off a takeover. At this point the film takes off with Largo, a superb martial artist, in flurry of heroics nicely balanced by flashbacks to his adoption by Nerio that reveal Largo's growing distaste for his father. Largo may not love Nerio or crave his riches, but he's certain his father was murdered.
Thomas is just as enjoyable and authoritative in this mainstream fare as she is in more serious films. She might not play the title character, but she gets the movie's ironic last line.
"The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch." No MPAA rating. In English, French and Croatian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.