Friday, January 08, 2010

Review - OSS 117: Lost in Rio (OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus)

If you saw and enjoyed Michel Hazanavicius' OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, it's fair to say you'll probably get a kick out of its sequel. Lost in Rio is pretty much the same film in a different location, with Hazanavicius employing the same blend of genre spoofery, broad gags and light satire to achieve the same results. For the uninitiated, OSS 117 is the code name of Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, the suave spy who would like to think he's the French answer to James Bond, but whose sexism, racism, arrogance and general obliviousness take him closer to Austin Powers territory. He is perfectly played by Jean Dujardin, delivering a fine comic performance that is inarguably the series' major strength, and in this breezily entertaining second adventure, he's off to Brazil to track down a microfilm that contains the details of French WWII collaborators ("It must be a small list, no wonder it's on microfilm" the proudly patriotic spy exclaims).

Subsequently, the film develops as you'd expect. The plot gives Hubert plenty of opportunities to embarrass himself and others, notably during his initial investigation (he blithely strolls into the German embassy and asks to see a list of former Nazis hiding in Brazil), or his inappropriate attempt to infiltrate a Nazi fancy dress party. Along the way, he gets a taste of hippie counterculture, frequently offends his Jewish companions, and comes under attack from a seemingly never-ending supply of Chinese assassins. Hazanavicius' direction ensures the silly plot moves at a smooth pace, and there's much to enjoy in the period details, from the evocative production design, camerawork and score, to the more specific movie pastiches, with Hitchcock being referenced heavily during the climax. As a director, Hazanavicius' sense of comic timing could be sharper, though. The film's humour remains hit-and-miss, and he often lets a scene drift awkwardly before cutting away, undermining the big laughs he has developed within it. Still, let us be grateful that there are big laughs to be had, and Lost in Rio – with scenes like the crocodile barbecue or a painfully slow hospital chase – is occasionally inspired. A third OSS 117 film is already in development, and as long as the filmmakers can keep things tight and funny, and keep Dujardin in the lead role, there's no reason why this series can't run and run.