In “Wingwomen,” directed by Laurent, it makes sense. It’s also funny, and the film is filled with similar humor: unexpected, gently delivered, relationship-based. There are no broad or obvious “jokes.” It’s the way friends are often funny with each other, their shorthand, the spontaneous fits of giggles, the way you don’t need to spell anything out. “Wingwomen,” based on the graphic novel The Grand Odalisque by Jérôme Mulot, Florent Ruppert, and Bastien Vivès, is an action-packed heist film, but it leaves enormous room for the most important thing: Carole and Alex’s friendship.
Buddy-comedy plus action-adventure is well-trod mostly male-dominated ground. There are some extremely popular exceptions (“Thelma and Louise” being the most obvious). “Wingwomen” doesn’t unfold like a self-conscious self-important course correction where two “badass” women kick ass together. Carole and Alex are capable and, at times, heartless killers. But “Wingwomen” is subtle, in its way, even nuanced, showing a very real connection in the middle of an outrageously un-real circumstance.
Carole and Alex are professional thieves, working for a woman they creepily call “Godmother” (the great Isabelle Adjani), who rescued them from the streets and put them to work. Alex is a world-class sniper, and Carole is the sneaky thief on the front line. They are enmeshed in each others’ lives, bickering about groceries and counseling each other on personal problems. (During the opening sequence, where they dodge aggressive drones before launching themselves off a cliff, Alex chatters about her disappointing love life and tendency to fall for the wrong guys.) But things are changing. Both women want to extricate themselves from the dangerous life. Godmother won’t let them go so easily. She would kill them if they double-crossed her. Godmother assigns them one last big job, promising they can “retire” afterward, a promise neither Carole nor Alex trusts.
The last job is very complicated: they must steal architectural plans in one city and get weapons from an arms dealer in another city before heading to Corsica, where they must steal “The Grand Odalisque” (no, not the famous Ingres painting but the pop-art version, by Martial Raysse. Godmother contemptuously calls it “kitsch”). Carole and Alex hire Sam (Manon Bresch) straight off the racetrack as their getaway driver. Sam is not a thief or a criminal, so a grumpy Alex puts her through a training montage.