OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Sean Connery Called, He Wants His Eyebrows Back
Starring: Jean DuJardin, Rudiger Vogler
By Robert Patrick
The spy genre gets lampooned by silly gags that involve wacky shoot-outs and jokey double entendres. If you like your martini’s stirred with a silly straw, you’ll probably enjoy director Michel Hazanavicius’ parody of the 007 series. The ingredients are ripe for the plucking, as you throw in the obligatory baddie – a squirrelly Nazi – and a protagonist who has the logic of a ficus plant. The hero in our story is Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a special agent who is the bumbling equivalent of Peter Sellers’ Clouseau character in “The Pink Panther” franchise – only less memorable and with stunted comedic timing.
Hubert, in swanky spy-genre fashion, bounces around, dressing to the nines, all while hanging ladies on his arm like it were a coat-rack. The episodic brouhaha is supposed to be mocking the notorious suavity of other Hollywood agents. And, because of the sheer fun the cast is having, some of the redundant hi-jinx are genuinely funny.
Because of his undeserved title as a globe trotting secret agent, Hubert is sent, much to his chagrin, to South America to track down a Nazi who escaped the war trials of World War II. The preposterously thick-skulled, flamboyant French spy is flown into Rio to receive a list of Reich sympathizers from the turncoat socialist. En route to finding this villain, Hubert encounters events that are tenderized by the playful mallet of the film’s director. A lot of sexist drivel is spouted from Hubert’s mouth, especially when he is forced to team up with the Israeli jack-of-all trades, Dolores Koule, whose stylistic wardrobe paints her as a dangerous fashionista. The wry exchanges, between the vacuous Hubert and the taut mind of Dolores, is similar to the eye-rolling chuckles that you would’ve seen in the original Austin Powers. A lot of the gags in “OSS 117: Lost in Rio” have been wrung dry by the fists of prior comedic takes on the spy-in-danger genre. With that said, there is some elasticity in the performances of the leads that stretch the material further than it could’ve gone with other, more pedestrian actors.
Jean DuJardin, who plays Hubert, the agent with a grin that could rival that of the Cheshire Cat, is great at bucking his eyebrows back in an overblown Bond-esque style. Half of the movie’s fun is watching DuJardin’s full commitment to such a cluelessly incoherent playboy. What I do love, more than than anything in the film, is the eccentric vulgarity of Bill Tremendous, a rubber-faced American CIA agent who has the kind of unhinged happiness that the guy from those Enzyte commercials has.
Unfortunately, due to a lot of unfocused zig-zagging of characters and action exchanges, “OSS 117: Lost in Rio” can get a little taxing after awhile, even at it’s brief running length (under two hours). The split-screen, an homage to those hardly-coy stylings of the 1960s, is funny the first ten times – after that I feel like I’m watching the film through a kaleidoscope. And then there is the feeling that you’ve seen the same sequence, over and over, when some of the action scenes unfold; maybe that is the point in the humor, but I see it more as the creators running out of things to point fun at in such an already linear genre.
Worse yet is that I’m afraid that American audiences wont want to see a Frenchman acting like a pesky womanizer for a feature length film that isn’t in English – if they want a marble-mouthed authority figure from France, they’ll watch Clouseau. It’s shame because it’s probably worth the admission for a certain bullet-dodging sequence.
Is the movie inspired? Not a chance. Is it full of bronze bodies and gunfights? Sure thing. And that’s enough for most.
“OSS 117: Lost in Rio” is now playing at Landmark’s Ken Cinema.