Movie Review: OSS 117: Lost In Rio (2009)
Director Michel Hazanavicius and co-writer Jean-François Halin have achieved the near-impossible and made a sequel that’s almost as good as the original. Gag-for-gag, shot-for-shot, OSS 117: Lost in Rio (as it’s called in America, anyway; I prefer the French title of OSS 117: Rio ne repond plus, which translates roughly as the more Eurospy-sounding Rio Doesn’t Answer) goes pretty much toe-to-toe with its predecessor. If the whole enterprise feels slightly less than the first film (OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies), that’s only because the concept (painstakingly recreating a Fifties or Sixties spy movie and playing up the era’s latent chauvinism, racism and homophobia for laughs) is no longer original. But the team has done a wonderful job of combating that problem by getting broader and bolder with certain aspects, such as the lead character’s casual racism (this time mostly channeled as antisemitism). And they’re lucky in that they have one tremendous crutch to lean on as well, which is lead actor Jean Dujardin. In his version of Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (now a French secret agent as opposed to an American one, as in Jean Bruce’s novels and the original film series), Dujardin has created a lasting comic persona in league with Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau and Leslie Nielson’s Frank Drebin, and far outshining lesser pretenders like Mike Meyers’ Austin Powers in the process. Dujardin has this role down pat, and he’s absolutely brilliant in it Not only does he uncannily look the part of a slick-haired Sixties secret agent (channeling the young Sean Connery at times), but he possesses all the requisite charm and charisma to make us still root for him despite the bumbling character’s many, many flaws! Its no mean feat (on the part of the writers and the actor) to create a hero so intolerant and yet still likable at the same time. He’s the Archie Bunker of the spy world.
OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies, OSS 117:Lost In Rio is a loving send-up of the Eurospy genre (and series whose name it bears), the spy genre at large, Sixties films in general and, of course, the James Bond series in specific. I think Hazanavicius himself put it best when he told the audience I saw this film with on Friday night that there are really two movies here: one that you see, which is a loving tribute to the movies of the Sixties, and another which you hear, which is a biting satire of them and the era that spawned them. That’s exactly why both of his OSS 117 films work so well–and hold so much appeal to fans of the Eurospy genre. This isn’t hateful parody, but loving parody. You’ll have as much fun spotting the countless specific visual references to various films of the time (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Murderer’s Row, Harper, The Thomas Crown Affair, North by Northwest, Fun in Acapulco, That Man in Rio and OSS 117: Mission for a Killer to name but a few) as you do laughing out loud at the sight gags (both clever and cheap–equally funny) and Hubert’s shocking and unrelenting conversational faux pas. (Some of his dialogue gets as awkward as an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.)
OSS 117: Lost in Rio is currently playing exclusive one-week engagements in New York and Los Angeles; it expands into wider markets throughout the summer. For a full list of dates and cities, check the Music Box Films website.
*While the visual slapstick is obvious, though, some of the subtler verbal satire is unfortunately missed in the English language print thanks to white subtitles that sometimes don’t show up at all over lighter backgrounds.
Read my introduction to the character of OSS 117 here.
Read my review of OSS 117 se déchaîne here.
Read my review of Banco à Bangkok pour OSS 117 (aka Panic in Bangkok aka Shadow of Evil) here.
Read my review of Furia à Bahia pour OSS 117 (Fury in Brazil, aka OSS 117: Mission For a Killer) here.
Read my review of Atout coeur à Tokyo pour O.S.S. 117 (aka OSS 117: Terror in Tokyo) here.
Read my review of Pas de Roses pour OSS 117 (aka OSS 117: Murder For Sale) here.
Read my review OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions (OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) here.
Read my DVD review of OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus (OSS 117: Rio Doesn't Answer, aka OSS 117: Lost in Rio) here.