Sunday, 2 June 2013

Film Review | Gambit (2012)

"Development hell" is one of those movie terms that seems to make any film it's applied to a free-for-all for derisive comment. Any negative issues are automatically inflated, with the good points often conveniently overlooked. True, there are examples of truly awful films making their way out of "development hell", but there are probably just as many - if not more - that eventually emerge to provide at least a fair amount of entertainment. A remake of 1966 Michael Caine film Gambit has apparently been on the cards since 1997, with everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Ben Kingsley attached to various roles. Fifteen years later, the finished product was finally released and (surprise surprise!) panned by many. Unfairly, I might add. Whilst Gambit isn't a comedy masterpiece, it has plenty of worth to offer.

The film's promotional material makes a lot of the fact that its screenplay is written by Joel and Ethan Coen, and whilst this is certainly nowhere near the brothers' best work, there's enough here to entertain with some snappy dialogue throughout. One exchange between Harry (Colin Firth) and P.J. (Cameron Diaz) overheard by two hotel employees with an entirely more lascivious meaning is a highlight straight from the playbook of classic British sitcom or one of the better Carry On films. Both Firth and Alan Rickman as his bully of a boss Lord Shahbandar get the majority of the script's best material, but there are pleasing moments for some other characters too.

That said, nobody here is exactly stretched to their dramatic heights: Firth's performance wavers between awkward upper-middle class Brit and Michael Caine impersonation, but is entertaining throughout nonetheless showing an aptitude for visual humour not often seen from him; Rickman is fine with his usual deprecating act, mixing in some smarm for good measure; less convincing is Diaz with a lazy performance and a Texan drawl that lacks authenticity even to my English ears. Tom Courtenay and Stanley Tucci are sadly given little of interest to do, with the latter channeling his best stereotypical German as if he'd been given some old copies of 'Allo 'Allo to watch as research for the role.

The humour occasionally falls back on lazy attempts at laughs - Rickman in the buff a couple of times, and even a cheap (albeit very well-timed) fart joke - but there's also enough eccentricity and caper-style comedy here to keep things amusing and enjoyable. It's never anything of substance or truly memorable, but Gambit manages to provide entertainment enough to make it a worthwhile watch.


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