On the run after accidentally stealing a car full of drug money from the Russian mob, sexy twenty year old jailbird Alice (Vanessa Paradis) is in desperate need of help. Luckily a letter from Alice's late mother leads her to two ageing playboy adventurers, one of whom might be her father: tough as nails ex-commando Leo Brassac (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and super-cool retired thief Julien Vignal (Alain Delon). As the decidedly unconventional family set about turning the tables on the mob, Alice grows increasingly reluctant to learn the results of an impending paternity test.
Almost thirty years after they last shared the screen in Borsalino (1970) French cinema icons Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon were finally reunited with the action comedy 1 chance sur 2. Fresh off an Oscar nomination for period satire Ridicule (1996) the versatile Patrice Leconte took the helm imbuing proceedings with a wit and panache familiar from his legacy of acclaimed comedies and thrillers. In a tertiary casting coup Leconte further amped up the film's star power by adding pop diva Vanessa Paradis, then among the biggest names in French showbiz. Indeed a substantial portion of the plot rests on Vanessa's shoulders and she carries her share of the film with a killer combo of acerbic edge and doe-eyed vulnerability fans will recall from her outstanding turn in Elisa (1995). Even so 1 chance sur 2's primary draw is obviously a chance to see the eternally ebullient Belmondo and super-suave Delon prove their mega wattage movie star charisma remained intact well into their twilight years.
In terms of plot 1 chance sur 2 is feather light and inconsequential. The script is borderline B-movie schlock reminiscent of both stars' lesser vehicles of the mid-Eighties. Yet to slam the story would be to miss the point entirely. 1 chance sur 2 is the French action movie equivalent of watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire strut their stuff through That's Entertainment, Part II (1976): two greying but still compelling as heck icons busting out their old familiar moves to crowd-pleasing nostalgic effect. To underline the point there the film has Easter eggs galore; whether it is Belmondo breaking out the same fully-automatic Beretta 9mm he used in Le Marginal (1983) or the brief but cherishable excerpt from Claude Bolling's score for Borsalino that plays the moment both stars trade wry grins.
Action fans may be caught off guard by the leisurely pace. However the film is foremost about character interplay and the sentimental bonding between daughter and two ageing action dads. Indeed the story arc is genuinely sweet as both men gradually merge into one functional father able to reign in the wayward but love-starved Alice who grows to love both so much she can't bear to abandon one. Perhaps by result of its tonal juxtaposition to the sentimental comedy plot the film's gruesome violence was criticized at the time although set beside other action films seems almost tame. Much harder to excuse is the throwaway romantic subplot between Alice and police detective Carella (Eric Defosse) hitherto established as a manipulative power player behind the scenes. It comes out of nowhere and rings false. Nonetheless the film builds to a well-orchestrated, suspenseful climax involving an escape from a death trap, a thrilling siege of the villain's hi-tech lair and numerous car and helicopter stunts. Amidst a scattering of surreal humour Leconte even includes a charming fourth wall-breaking action sequence where as Belmondo dangles from a helicopter (for real) both Vanessa and Alain Delon assure him everyone (meaning the audience) is impressed he is able to pull of the stunt at his age.