Gambit (12A)

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Review byMatthew Turner23/11/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 89 mins

Disappointing caper comedy remake that never quite sparks to life, thanks to a lacklustre script, half-hearted performances, a lack of chemistry between the two leads and precious little in the way of actual laughs.

What's it all about?
Directed by Michael Hoffman and scripted by the Coen Brothers, Gambit is a remake of a 1966 caper comedy that starred Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. The film stars Colin Firth as put-upon art expert Harry Deane, who sees a chance to swindle his obnoxious media mogul boss Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman) out of a small fortune by conning him into buying a fake Monet.

Formulating a plan, Harry enlists the help of his forger friend The Major (Tom Courtenay) and together they travel to the US in an attempt to persuade Texas cowgirl PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz) to come in on their scheme. However, nothing goes quite according to plan.

The Good
Gambit's best moment is a slick opening sequence that was lifted from the original film, a sequence so good, in fact, that the 1966 posters carried the clever tag-line 'Please don't reveal the beginning!' Unfortunately, it's pretty much all downhill from there, as the lacklustre script (not, it has to be said, the Coens' finest hour) limps through a series of tired comedy routines, most of which seem to centre around Colin Firth either losing or staining his trousers.

The Bad
Firth is a likeable and charming actor, but he looks decidedly uncomfortable throughout, even in the few scenes where he still has his trousers on. He also has zero chemistry with Diaz, who, in turn, just seems like she's doing a caricatured cowgirl impression, rather than creating a convincing character. Even Rickman, who's made a career out of playing deliciously nasty, sneering characters, delivers a decidedly half-hearted performance and Lionel's penchant for nudity doesn't really work as a gag, since it's never really exploited properly.

On top of that, Hoffman's direction lacks pace and several of the gags are either woefully misguided (e.g. the Japanese businessmen deliberately behaving in an offensively stereotypical fashion as a negotiating tactic) or fall painfully flat; though, to be fair, there is at least one sequence that raises a decent laugh, thanks to some inspired double entendre-laden dialogue. That said, for all its supposed pedigree (high class actors, Coens script etc), this is still a film that is happy to include not one but two separate jokes involving old ladies farting.

Worth seeing?
Gambit is watchable enough but it's neither as funny nor as clever as it should have been, thanks to a lazy script, plodding direction and half-hearted performances from all three leads.

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Gambit (12A)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 08:24

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