The first outing of THE ARTIST trio, French director Michel Hazanavicius’ second feature film, an 007 spoof based on the popular novel series penned by Jean Bruce, its protagonist is the French secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath codename OSS 117 (Dujardin), who is narrow-minded, feather-headed and a hardened skirt-chaser, but has a slick head of hair and optimal luck to land on his feet among silly international intrigues.
So this time he is assigned to Cairo (often stood in by Morocco) to investigate the disappearance of his fellow agent Jefferson (Lefebvre), liaised with the latter’s secretary Larmina (Bejo, grudgingly playacting a Middle East stock and stomaching most of 117’s racially insensitive remarks, until being inexorably overcome by 117’s irresistible potency), he runs afoul of a series of multinational (British, Russian, Belgian, German) espionage, as well as clashing with the local Egyptians, from authority, factional radicals, to the royal princess Al Tarouk (Atika), who just cannot get enough of him, nudge nudge.
Unashamedly ethnocentric, and deficient in intelligence, logic and sensibility, fortunately the film boasts the winning appeal of its star, Jean Dujardin confidently chaperones us through 117’s escapade with his beaming smile, pervasive swagger and faux-naïf blarney, sprinkled with small wonderment: ribbings on 117’s sexuality and the flashback of his beach side bromance never fails to delight, a fez-worn music number of Dalida’s BAMBINO in Arabic ebulliently epitomizes the picture’s frothy nature, to say nothing of its clever opening title sequences paying homage to Saul Bass. OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES shows Hazanavicius’ competence in his craftsmanship, but whether one will find it intoxicating or fatuous squarely depends on your Gallic humor quotient.
referential entries: Hazanavicius’ THE ARTIST (2011, 8.4/10); Guy Hamilton’s GOLDFINGER (1964, 6.3/10); David Kerr’s JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN (2018, 6.0/10).