L'Opération Corned Beef (Operation Corned Beef)
Dir: Jean-Marie Poiré
Star: Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Valérie Lemercier, Mireille Rufel
Cert / Year: 15 / 1991
Format: DVD R2

Captain Philippe Boulier (Jean Reno), codename Shark, is top intelligence agent in the French army. His unit has discovered a plan to sell secret military equipment to a South American crime lord. To catch them in the act he has bugged a translator Marie-Laurence (Valérie Lemercier) who is unwittingly working for the go between in the deal. The problem comes from the translators husband Jean-Jacques Granianski (Christian Clavier) who wants to take her away on holiday. Meanwhile the operation is beginning done behind the back of his own government so he has to keep a low profile. Not easy when Shark must keep Marie-Laurence at work and her husband occupied until the deal is done, even if it means ruining their marriage and his own in the process.

Two years before the superb Les Visiteurs Jean-Marie Poiré wrote (along with Christian Clavier) and directed this film with the same cast. No time travel Shenanigans this time, but a comedy based in the world of espionage. This is a story about a super agent (more Harry Palmer than James Bond) whose family life interferes with his mission with comic effect. Hold on that sounds familiar doesn't it. Yes, the premise for the story is somewhat similar to Arnie action comedy True Lies (incidentally True Lies is itself based upon another French film).

This film is a strange blend of action and comedy, with the two elements not so much blended but thrown at each other. For example the movie opens with a car chase where about half through it a nun gets knocked up in the air and comically bounces off the three pursuing cars. It is funny, but strange. However despite its action trappings at the heart of the film is a good old-fashioned farce.

A farce is an unusual type of comedy to make into a film, as they are often better suited to the stage, but when done properly it can be very funny. The biggest problem for this type of comedy is that time has to be taken to establish the situation, so that the situation that follows becomes more and more desperate as events spiral out of the main characters control. This in turn means that the opening of this film (bar the initial car chase) isn't very funny as the time is taken to place Jean Reno's character in a right predicament. However once things get going the action and the laughs really kick in.

Jean Reno is a great actor who has a fine appreciation of comedy, and here this talent is really exploited. It is really funny to see his butch super spy persona disintegrate into a raging angry mess. This is aided by Christian Clavier's stuffy prat of a straight man, who life is totally destroyed as the Shark tries ever more desperate means to keep things under control. The support cast is also pretty good with Mireille Rufel in particular giving and outstanding performance.

L'Opération Corned Beef is a good funny film. This is thanks in the main to a solid cast and a sharp script. It does take a while to find it's legs, but once it is going it is great entertainment. It is neither as original or as funny as Les Visiteurs but it is a worthy comedy in it's own right. The action scenes add to film even if they are not perfectly integrated in it, however purposeful direction by Jean-Marie Poiré ensures that film is kept on course. If you enjoyed Les Visiteurs this film is well worth seeking out.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Perfectly fine piture quality.
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Not bad French language soundtrack (English sub-titles optional).
Features Trailers
Interview with Jean-Marie Poiré (French language only)
Verdict This French region 2 disc has an acceptable transfer and a couple of extras. Not terrible but not exactly exciting.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home