The financial crisis is a reliable fount of inspiration these days for rom-coms that need a relatable conflict, but maybe the sense of dread is finally lifting from the conceit: Joel Hopkins’s The Love Punch, which aims to update classic heist films for the contemporary retiree set, approaches the prospect of financial ruin with all the giddiness of a honeymoon.
Pierce Brosnan plays Richard, a mid-level executive who arrives at work to find his company foreclosed on by a ruthless French buyer. His pension now worthless, Richard and his ex-wife, Kate (Emma Thompson), set out for France with the dubious goal of personally retrieving the money; when legal efforts fail, they decide to steal it back in the form of a famous diamond. Luckily for them (and for viewers), these locales double as a nice vacation.
As the fates of Richard’s penniless employees drift from his mind, a not-so-unexpected second-love story emerges. How to Steal a Million it’s not — Brosnan sleepwalks through his dialogue, and there’s at least one unforgivable James Bond reference — but The Love Punch is too sunny and self-effacing to be truly toxic.
Thompson, who starred in Hopkins’s last effort, the sentimental Last Chance Harvey, is charming and dynamic, and an array of underdeveloped secondary characters do little lasting damage. Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall notably play a pair of neighbors who provoke Kate and Richard to further wrongdoing: During dinner, Spall’s character produces a loaded gun, which thankfully dispels any Chekhovian tension almost immediately by discharging into a cask of wine.
The film is a similar misfire, good for a laugh, but more importantly, nobody got hurt.