I was really unsure of just how to react when I first saw the trailer for Gambit. A couple of good men (Colin Firth and Alan Rickman) in main roles meant that I wanted to enjoy it but the trailer made the movie seem predictable, unfunny and desperate to draw an audience who would see it simply because it was written by the Coen brothers. Trailers are sometimes misleading. This one wasn’t.
The plot is all about Colin Firth trying to get one over on his boss, a nasty piece of work played by Alan Rickman. To do this, Firth is going to use his position as art curator, the talents of a superb forger (Tom Courtenay) and the family name of an exuberant cowgirl (Cameron Diaz). Meanwhile, his position is in danger of being usurped by another art lover, played by Stanley Tucci, and the plan starts to unravel rather quickly. Can Firth get everything back in place for his ultimate revenge?
There’s a nice title sequence that’s like a cross between The Pink Panther and Johnny Bravo but then, sadly, it’s all downhill. I can’t say that the film is never funny because that would be a lie. The scenes which see Firth wandering around The Savoy and the misunderstood conversations overheard that lead the staff to think of him as something of a loverman are pretty funny but, really, I can’t think of any other moments that I enjoyed.
Don’t get me wrong, while writing this review I have tried and tried to think of other positive aspects to praise because I really like almost everyone involved onscreen. Okay, Cameron Diaz may have started to grate now in every movie that she stars in but Firth, Rickman, Courtenay and Tucci are always good and there’s a very small, but amusing, turn from Cloris Leachman. Sadly, their collective effort can’t make this film rise above average.
The script from the Coen brothers has a few good lines here and there but they are rare. More common are the characterisations that border on the offensive. Personally, I loved Tucci onscreen but cringed at the character he was given. And the least said about the first meeting that Rickman and Diaz have with a large group of Japanese businessman the better. The joke may be turned around moments later but it didn’t need to be there in the first place.
Director Michael Hoffman did a much better robbery movie many years ago when he gave audiences the wonderful Restless Natives. Perhaps he thought that times hadn’t changed since then and was happy to go along with such an easygoing, insubstantial script but times HAVE changed and if you’re going to try and do a good con movie nowadays then you have to remember that audiences are a bit more sophisticated. You either have to make the con really clever and unpredictable or make it really fresh and enjoyable. This is neither. Worst of all, I could see how things were going to end as soon as they began.
I’m sure that some people will enjoy this as a simple pleasure featuring a few great stars in the mix but I think that most people who pay for tickets will come out feeling as if the con was on them.
Gambit is released here in the UK on 21st November.
DIRECTOR: MICHAEL HOFFMAN
WRITER: ETHAN COEN, JOEL COEN
STARS: COLIN FIRTH, ALAN RICKMAN, CAMERON DIAZ, TOM COURTENAY, STANLEY TUCCI, CLORIS LEACHMAN, TOGO IGAWA
RUNTIME: 89 MINS APPROX