Although the international title tries to sell this as a stand-alone action film, The Burma Conspiracy (known in France as Largo Winch II) is actually the sequel to Largo Winch - Deadly Revenge (2008). The original Franco-Belgian-German graphic novel adaptation tried to do for corporate intrigue what James Bond does for espionage, namely sex it up a notch with globe-trotting action, glossy locations and glamorous women. Here the prologue re-establishes the central conceit - suave but handy Bosnian foundling Largo Winch (Tomer Sisley) becomes reluctant CEO of multi-billion dollar global powerhouse the W. Group following the death of his father Nerio Winch - but also introduces his hitherto unmentioned lover, Malunai (Napakpapha Nakprasitte) from his time as an aid worker in her native Burma.
Hoping to turn his back on the business world, Largo aims to sell the W. Group to a consortium led by cancer-ridden Alexandre Jung (Laurent Terzieff), his late father's closest friend. Yet seconds after Largo signs the contract he is arrested by an Interpol team led by glamorous prosecuting attorney Diane Franken (Sharon Stone), accused of bankrolling the massacre of a Burmese village. Surprise, surprise: the star witness in Franken's case is Malunai! Being a resourceful chap, Largo goes on the run intent on uncovering who set him up.
The Burma Conspiracy is a much stronger film than its predecessor though the same flaws remain in the inherent premise and its aspiration to 007-levels of international intrigue. Whereas James Bond battles to protect the world from imminent destruction, Largo Winch fights to safeguard his vast fortune. More than Ian Fleming's creation, Largo Winch deals in the ultimate capitalist fantasy: a two-fisted playboy with unlimited personal wealth free to indulge his action hero whims. His devil-may-care attitude summed up by what he cites as an old Bosnian proverb: "A man with no enemies, is no man at all." Both Largo Winch movies set out to make boardroom politics and financial wheeler-dealing look sexy. Yet to Largo's credit the film also shows him to be a man with strong ethics and an altruistic attitude to global politics and economics. We are re-introduced to Largo in the midst of a high-speed car chase that is the result of him punching out corrupt East European oligarch Nazatchov (Dmitry Nazarov) on live television for his appalling exploitation of migrant workers.
Returning writer-director Jerome Salle handles the hi-octane stunts, visceral hand-to-hand combat and other breakneck set-pieces with greater confidence this time around, staging several sequences closely modelled on famous Bond scenes. The opening car chase is highly reminiscent of the curtain raiser to Quantum of Solace (2008) only with a GPS gag from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Later on Largo partakes in an audacious sky dive stunt brazenly lifted from Moonraker (1979) albeit perfectly executed and similarly spectacular. If James Bond is one influence then the Batman films of Christopher Nolan must rank as another, although in this instance the constant jumps back and forth in time hinder rather than help the sprawling narrative. Yet, working again from a story by graphic novel creators Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme, Salle crafts a more potent plot this time around. The stakes are higher and more personal, there is greater emotional nuance and some very sharp twists, though again seasoned film fans will spot the gags lifted from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (a villain adjusting his mirror to catch a glimpse of the heroine stripping off) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) with an expanded role for Largo's pernickety but steadfast manservant Gauthier (Nicolas Vaude). He essentially steps into Marcus Brody's shoes as "hapless European adrift in foreign climbs" embarking on the global search for Simon Ovronnaz (Olivier Barthelemy, another affable presence in the film), the one person that can verify our hero was not involved in the massacre.
Of course the most notable presence in the sequel is imported Hollywood star Sharon Stone. The filmmakers go out of their way to throw in great many allusions to her iconic role in Basic Instinct (1992). She wears a similar outfit in a scene that nods to her infamous "legs uncrossing" sequence which, glamorous star or not, seems a trifle out of place for a lawyer crusading against human rights abuses. Despite Stone's prominent billing she has limited screen time and comes across like stunt casting even whilst evidently relishing one of her stronger roles in recent years. She makes more of an impact than tepid love interest Napakpapha Nakprasitte who comes across more as a plot catalyst than a fully developed character, playing to age-old orientalist clichés in pulp fiction. Elsewhere, Tomas Sisley proves a quietly charismatic leading man responding ably to the demands of the script whether it is the taut climax Salle executes with a Hitchcockian flourish or the moving twist that neatly brings the story full circle. One can forgive the cheesy inclusion of a cover version of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son."