Director: Michael Hoffman
Starring: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtney, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman.
Written by: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
Running Time: 89 mins
Release date: 21st November 2012
The Coen brothers are, without doubt, the most exciting film making team around. Time after time they have produced inventive, sometimes courageous films. They are a great directing and producing partnership who are also amazing writers. So to see their name on a poster is enough to get me running to the cinema with eager anticipation. So imagine how I felt when the posters for Gambit came out with the words “Written by Ethan and Joel Coen” emblazed alongside the cast. In fact…above the cast. Now imagine my crushing disappointment when I saw the film. Surely this was a Coen brothers off-day because if Gambit is the shape of things to come, the once master wordsmiths have definitely lost their touch, so this is an almighty failure of epic proportions.
Harry Deane is an art curator for megalomaniac media mogul, Lionel Shahbandar. For years, Deane has been pushed around and bullied by his boss and he has had enough. He wants revenge. Working with an art fraudster, Major Wingate, the two men have come up with a way of conning Shahbandar out of £12 million. The Major has painted a missing Monet and they persuade Texan rodeo girl PJ Puznowski to hang it in her grandmother’s trailer and photo it, luring the evil boss into making an offer for the one painting he desperately wants. However, Deane has a habit of blundering through life and the best laid plans will never get off the ground, especially when Shahbandar wants to fire Deane for another curator.
Based on a 1966 comedy caper starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, this has great writers, a solid cast…what could possibly go wrong? Actually, almost everything. Starting off with a Pink Panther-esque animated credit sequence, which sets the tone for the film. This is the land of farce, the sort of thing Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers could pull off in their sleep. However, director Michael Hoffman is not Blake Edwards and there’s not a Sellers in sight.
Colin Firth is a fine actor, we know that from his past movie history. Donning Michael Caine style glasses, he bumbles through the whole thing with plenty of energy but without much lightness of comic touch that is needed for this kind of film. Cameron Diaz, with ditzy Texan accent, mugs and throws everything she has to raise the laughs and once again gets down to her undies but even that doesn’t help. Alan Rickman, always good value, is fine as the baddie while Stanley Tucci is left to play his German curator with a silly Zerman acchunt! Only Tom Courtney as the Major, manages to underplay the whole thing and his part works.
So the actors are doing their best but why isn’t that enough? The script has plenty of zing but it feels so old-fashioned and when the witty dialogue fall flat, it resorts to fart jokes and Firth losing his trousers while walking along the ledge of the Savoy hotel. There is one scene which managed to raise a smile, in which Firth is discovered in another woman’s hotel room trouser-less but the smile soon goes when a cheap gag follows.
While the thought of another nasty media king gets his comeuppance from Mr Nice Guy is fine for film entertainment, the whole thing is limp and sometimes desperate and the small select audience that I saw it with didn’t seem that impressed either, with a few sniggers but nothing more. Considering the talent involved, if I was giving out awards for the most disappointing movie of 2012, this would be it.