Film Review: Gambit
Do the remakes ever end? This month we are presented with Michael Hoffman’s version of the 1966 movie Gambit (and often references 1960s iconic comedies, such as The Pink Panther in its music and animated opening), a farcical comedy that raises the odd chuckle, but overall fails to keep afloat.
The most surprising aspect of the film (in a bad way) is the half-hearted, rambling script from the usually impressive Coen brothers. The consistently fantastic Colin Firth and Alan Rickman (the latter of whom is very comfortable in his usual antagonistic role) manage to bring some great scenes to the film with their thoroughly entertaining performances, making the most of the shambling screenplay. But the pair simply cannot bear the weight of the poorly written script all by themselves, and this is where the film’s greatest weaknesses lie.
Rickman is often well known by Brits and Americans alike for his sharp tongue and wry sense of humour, as we’ve seen in his work from the likes of Harry Potter to Die Hard. Unfortunately Gambit sees him mostly yell a variety of insults at Firth, with the script never playing to his real strengths as an actor nor creating much of a character in Rickman’s Lord Shabandar. Likewise, Firth’s Harry Deane might as well have been Bridget Jones’s Diary’s Mark Darcy for all the good the script did him developing him – using the longest and old-fashioned words to create the most absolute sense of stereotypical overplayed British-ness (with a double combo with Tom Courtenay’s Major, Harry Deane’s partner-in-crime). And, for the most “hilarious” situations, he is partnered and contrasted with the most stereotypically American of all American people – a cowgirl, PJ Puznowski, played by Cameron Diaz (who is a pleasant surprise in this role).
The stereotypes don’t stop at Deane and Puznowski, but an entire ensemble of Japanese businessmen join the fiasco and, even though it’s a front on their part for Shabandar, rather overplay what they describe as the ‘Idiot Japanese’ act to the point of becoming more annoying than entertaining. And similarly Stanley Tucci’s well-acted (but poorly written) zany stylish German art expert reeks of Brüno – but the Sacha Baron Cohen-esque character feels entirely out of place in the big picture.
Whilst the consistent cultural pigeon-holing can be irritating, there are some genuine moments of brilliance – particularly during some brilliantly written scenes in the Savoy hotel in London involving Firth and a Ming vase, and some silly but humorous moments of innuendo when mentioning ‘the Major’ that hark back to the works of Monty Python or Peter Sellers.
Gambit is a frustrating film – top actors aren’t used to their full potential, and its script rambles on one minute and has you laughing-out-loud the next. Its inconsistency and lack of development is its downfall, which feels like a real shame for something with such obvious potential. Alas, yet another remake that fails to stand up to the original. How few there are.