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Not So Much A Masterpiece As Painting-by-Numbers
on 15 March 2013
Having been disappointed at missing Gambit when it was on at my local cinema a few months ago, I have now at last got round to watching it on DVD. My main criteria for watching this particular film is that I am an avid `Rickmaniac' (Alan Rickman fan) and, having got most of his films/TV work on DVD, felt I owed it to my allegiance to add this one too!
So, as Colin Firth himself said in an interview, this film is not ground-breaking - all the old `clichés' from 60s and 70s capers seem to be there, along with `Pink Panther'-style farces - from Colin Firth without his trousers (time to move over, Brian Rix ) to a dig at the Japanese, American, Germans and indeed Brits, with all their stereotypical idiosyncrasies to the fore. All that seems to be missing is Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, complete with trilby hat, magnifying glass and his trademark distinctly ridiculous French accent. Then again, it's what we, as Brits, do best - the fact that we haven't really done so since the 60s and 70s is neither here nor there. The other fact being that the Coen brothers, who wrote the script, ironically, are in fact American. Then again, the original of this was made in the early 1960s (with Michael Cain and Shirley McClain in the lead roles, and I'm led to believe that the original writer was in fact English, though please don't quote me on that.)
The role of Harry Deane, the put upon Art Curator at the heart of the story, is not one that you would automatically think of Colin Firth for. And, although he does his very best, I spent most of the time I was watching him thinking that someone else (not sure who) might have been better. He wasn't terrible by any means but I personally think there are better comedic actors out there. Alan Rickman himself is larger than life as the selfish, arrogant media tycoon boss that Deane is trying to con, and Cameron Diaz plays her part well as the ditzy rodeo rider, `P.J' Puznowski, called in to help Deane. Maybe her 'Texan-ness' is somewhat over the top, but then again, I'm guessing that was deliberate too.
Without giving away too much of the plot, I have to say I found some of the first part of the film a little confusing, but once the penny dropped, it all fell into place and totally made sense.
However, side-splitting this film is not, but it does have its moments - such as a highly amusing scene in the Savoy Hotel foyer when two receptionists (superbly played by Pip Torrens and Julian Rhind-Tutt) get the wrong end of the stick re a conversation between P.J (Diaz) and Harry Deane: This is innuendo at it's very best and, in a way, the rest of the comedy from then on is a bit of a let down by comparison.
Whilst it would be fair to say that this film would be unlikely to make anyone's `Top 10' (or probably `Top 100' for that matter), I'm sure there must be worse ways to spend 85 minutes. I can honestly say it was a fun, cheery `caper' that certainly left more than a hint of a smile on my face. (Not least because you get to see Colin Firth sans trousers, and more of Mr. Rickman than most of his other films have revealed; the latter not necessarily a good thing at his age of 67, I hasten to add, but I admit to being easily pleased at my own age nowadays!) The twist at the end though is definitely worth waiting for and elevates the film to slightly more than your average comedy, e.g. it has a plot!
Quite what other reviewers have meant when they've said things like "the worst film ever" and "totally unfunny" (as some professional review claimed), I'm really not sure. Have they seen some of the movies out there? Trust me, this was one of Alan Rickman's better ones (though hardly a glamorous role, and playing a rather nasty character in a kind of endearing way that only he can) - and I should know - I've sat through them all!