My first reaction on having seen The Love Punch was along the lines of ‘Well, I didn’t know they made films like that anymore.’ A few weeks later, on re-considering the matter, I’m still not sure ‘they’ do. A corny, resolutely old-fashioned comedy, The Love Punch feels like a one-off – a throwback to earlier times when life seemed more innocent and less complicated.
Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson play Richard and Kate, a divorced couple who bicker at each other in a way that tells you there’s still a spark between them. Richard is a businessman who goes off to France to track down Vincent, the villainous banker who made off with his company’s pension fund; Kate accompanies him because she’s equally dependent on money from the fund.
When they can’t make the dastardly Vincent see reason, they hatch a plot to steal a multi-million dollar diamond Vincent has bought for his fiancée, who he is about to wed. They inveigle themselves into the French Riviera hotel for the wedding, urge the fiancée to dump Vincent, and exchange her precious diamond for a fake.
This is all played out in a tone of broad, crashingly obvious comedy – all raised eyebrows, exaggerated glances of shock and surprise, and dialogue replete with double entendres. At times the script swerves into the Monty Python zone, and I don’t mean that insultingly – there’s something about the comic heist that recalls A Fish Called Wanda.
Director Ben Hopkins worked with Emma Thompson before in the sweet-natured, low-key romantic comedy Last Chance Harvey, and she emerges best of all the cast, making the most of the script’s implausibilities. Brosnan, I fear, is really not cut out for comedy – as an actor, he’s not nimble or sparkling enough; ultimately, he’s a bit stiff. Celia Imrie (against whom I will never hear a bad word) and Timothy Spall play their wacky neighbours, who join in the fun in France, thanks to a dubious plot contrivance – and add to the gaiety of the proceedings.
One can make a strong case against The Love Punch (and I think I just did) while still warming to it. For all its imperfections, it’s likable, generous-hearted and uncomplicated good fun. I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 50 caring for it much; but for those old enough to remember post-war British comedy when it was mostly cheerful and spirited, without a touch of cleverness or irony in sight, this is a bit of a surprise treat.
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