Opening with a barman preparing a martini – shaken not stirred – The Love Punch is a ham-fisted caper that nods affectionately to leading man Pierce Brosnan’s years of service as James Bond.
Indeed, the film’s centre-piece jewel theft would have been effortlessly executed by 007 in mere minutes.
However, writer-director Joel Hopkins’s third feature isn’t concerned with the finer points of pilfering a £10 million diamond from a heavily guarded mansion on the Cote d’Azur.
His script is intentionally divorced from reality.
Somehow, the first-time criminals manage to throw grappling hooks up hundreds of feet in order to scale a mountainside in ill-fitting wet suits, then smuggle the gem in a hiding place that would result in horrific injuries for one of the team. When the couple need sensitive information, they video conference their teenage son (Jack Wilkinson) and call upon his dubious talents as a hacker. Simple.
The Love Punch is not great art and the outcome is achingly predictable, but the on-screen chemistry of Brosnan and Emma Thompson fizzes and there are some hearty laughs amidst the nonsense.
Richard Jones (Brosnan) and his ex-wife Kate (Thompson) are crippled by loneliness as they lead unfulfilling separate lives. He is poised to retire to the golf course with best friend Jerry (Timothy Spall) while she reluctantly agrees to blind dates organised by Jerry’s well-meaning wife, Penelope (Celia Imrie).
“Taking your laptop into the garden is not ‘getting out there’,” Penelope reminds Kate.
Shortly after the couple’s daughter Sophie (Tuppence Middleton) flies the nest for university, Machiavellian French businessman Vincent Kruger (Laurent Lafitte) plunders the pension fund of Richard’s company, leaving the Joneses on the brink of financial ruin.
A trip to Paris to confront Kruger ends badly so Kate suggests they steal the hulking diamond necklace, which Kruger’s unsuspecting fiancee is set to wear at the wedding.
“What have we got to lose?” wonders Richard aloud.
“Our dignity? Our freedom?” replies his former spouse.
Blessed with a wonderful running joke about Jerry’s unlikely secret military past, The Love Punch won’t be troubling awards committees. It’s simplistic, lightweight fluff, which uses the robbery as a plot device to reunite Richard and Kate then stoke the embers that clearly still smoulder between them.
Thompson and Brosnan are an attractive pairing and they bring a veneer of class to proceedings, which is lacking in the writing and direction.
Both actors appear to be having a blast in the film’s sun-baked Riviera locations, and Spall and Imrie add depth to colourful supporting characters, who view their collusion in the theft as a catalyst to re-invigorate their marriage. A candlelit meal for two closer to home would surely be a simpler and cheaper option.
By Damon Smith