Directed and written by Joel Hopkins — whose earlier films “Jump Tomorrow” and “Last Chance Harvey” demonstrated both perfect comedic timing and a warm understanding of human imperfection — “The Love Punch” gets by in no small part thanks to the individual charms and collective chemistry between leads Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson.
Playing divorced couple Richard and Kate, Brosnan and Thompson depict the semi-stable state of long separations: occasional conversations about new developments or old resentments, living separate lives.
But when captain-of-industry Brosnan sells his company to a larger megacorp whose CEO (Laurent Lafitte) then robs the entire pension fund and moves on like a predator in search of the next meal, Richard and Kate find themselves facing post-retirement poverty right before the finish line of retirement age. Getting their money back will take them both outside of their comfort zone and result in them becoming surprisingly comfortable with each other once again.
The revenge-of-the-ripped-off plot here is nothing new; similar working-class outrage fueled 2011’s “Tower Heist” and other, similar films long before the recent credit crunch and financial meltdown. Rarely, though, have we had such charming companions on the voyage over that well-trod ground.
Brosnan’s Richard is a good man with a bad back; as weird as it is to see the ex-Bond groaning about his lumbar vertebra, it certainly puts a bit of mileage on Brosnan’s matinee-idol good looks. Thompson’s Kate also takes advantage of the actress’ familiar talents — a capacity for rapid-fire dialogue, impeccable comedic timing, and a way of speaking that suggests her mental filter isn’t quite quick enough to catch the spoken first draft of her thoughts.
The supporting cast is also excellent, including Lafitte’s turn as an amoral businessman and Tuppence Middleton as his future trophy wife. Regular scene-stealers Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie are also great as old friends Jerry and Penelope, always ready to help by offering a glass of wine or by taking part in a kidnapping and jewel heist in the South of France.
With sunshiny elegant locations and decidedly low-tech planning (no one here is putting on a black turtleneck to shimmy through laser beams), comedy and character have to do most of the heavy lifting here, and if they’re occasionally not up to the task of maintaining the momentum, at least the occasional slow-downs never bring the proceedings to a full stop.
The best possible news is that “The Love Punch” takes itself about as seriously as you should take it; crimes are interrupted for swigs of champagne, and montages where our larcenous foursome swagger like Reservoir Dogs are interrupted by their need to stop for a restroom break.
In an era when entertainment on film seems more and more aimed specifically at juveniles — or, alternately, ostensibly aimed at adults yet decidedly juvenile in nature — an occasional on-screen reminder that life does not, “Logan’s Run”-style, end at 30 is welcome.
“The Love Punch” may be aged out of the main moviegoing demographic, yet it’s still a breezy time that earns solid laughs while making good points. “Love’s easy when you’re rolling around on expensive sheets,” Thompson’s Kate counsels at one point to a younger woman. “It’s different when they have to be washed up.”
Editor Susan Littleberg (“Easy A”) maintains the fleet, sleek and glowing tone of the piece, and her experience with Hopkins’ cosmopolitan, urbane style serves the film well. Cinematographer Jérôme Alméras shoots in a suitably not-quite-real light that keeps things gorgeous and glib, with the not inconsiderable aid of the film’s French Riviera locations.
“The Love Punch” may not have the knockout power that would make it a TKO, but like all older, wiser boxers, it assuredly has the endurance to get closer to the final bell than you might at first glance think.