Even Firth can't save this farce
Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz
An art curator plots to fool his overbearing boss into buying a counterfeit painting – he just needs the perfect partner in crime.
Based on the 1966 film starring Michael Caine and ShirleyMacLaine, this 2012 remake of Gambit has been pootling around development hell for several decades, with several directors and stars moving in and out of the periphery.
Things took a turn for the possible when famed filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen came on board to rewrite the existing material, with potentially Alexander Payne as director and ReeseWitherspoon as the female lead. That fell apart and long story short this version stars ColinFirth (who was attached to the project for half a decade), CameronDiaz and is directed by Michael Hoffman.
And it’s a total mess.
Gambit starts with the details of the perfect heist, told in style detail through voice over by ColinFirth’s Harry Deane. This turns out to be all concocted in his brain, with the film then serving up how the plan actually turns out. And, sadly, this is the only halfway interesting or original moment you’ll experience for the next 90 minutes.
It’s hard to know exactly what the Coen Brothers initially intended or how much has been changed since their original version of the script but this Gambit has no idea what to do with the pieces in play.
What’s worse is that Firth is front and centre, working his ass off to try to bring some character to Deane. Rather recently, Firth figured out he was in fact a marvellous actor, and he brings all his best emotive faces and handsome stares to the table here. His casting at least, in place of Michael Caine, is superb but he’s let down by every other aspect of the production.
The main enemy of reason here is Diaz. In a role which should have lightness, fun and (dare I say it) youth on its side – she flounces around, skipping in her underwear and coming out with a Texan accent that pained my lugholes. Their relationship is nonexistent and her use in the plot rarely satisfactory.
Want another example of how much this film fails? It contains scenes featuring Alan Rickman and charm engine Stanley Tucci riffing off each other that totally lacking in comedy or entertainment value. It takes a special kind of filmmaking to contort Tucci (one of my favourite performers) into a dullard but here Hoffman has succeeded.
Even the technical aspects of Gambit are lacklustre, with little style and meagre effects worthy of a straight to video effort. This is enhanced by an oddly broad tone which shows Firth’s physical comedy chops but also results in many scenes descending into him being punched in the face.
Gambit reeks of a film which was made under the duress of creditors rather than for any real reason and despite Firth’s best efforts should generally be avoided.