Art curator Harry Deane (Colin Firth – The King’s Speech) decides that he has had enough of his domineering and rude boss Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman – Die Hard) so he plans a scheme to get him to buy a fake Monet. With the help of a Texas rodeo queen named PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz – Charlie’s Angels) Harry sets about putting his plan in motion with disastrous consequences.
Gambit is a throwback to the classic British capers of the 1960’s that’s full of larger than life characters, a plot with comedy and surprises and some star turns to boot. Whilst the end product may not be deemed a classic, Gambit still has a lot going for it and makes for an entertaining night in.
Colin Firth oozes quintessential English-ness in every frame and makes Gambit worth your time. He is class personified, especially during the dream sequence when he envisages his first meeting with PJ. Channelling his inner Michael Caine (even down to the sharp suits and thick-frame glasses), Firth is always watchable and elevates Gambit to a different plateau.
Alan Rickman steals his scenes as the token bad guy and really makes the film tick whenever he is on-screen The talented Brit knows how to play a bad guy in his sleep (revisit Die Hard or Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves for proof) and gloriously hams up his larger-than-life on-screen persona. He is at his best when he is ruthlessly belittling Firth and the two bounce off one another so well.
Cameron Diaz is an odd choice and whilst she is perfectly fine as PJ she still feels a tad out of place here. It probably doesn’t help that the Coen Brothers script plays too many foreign stereotype cards and in the end Diaz is reduced to just a sassy Texan blonde with little more required from her than just looking fine in her underwear (which she dutifully obliges). It’s a shame because Diaz is one of Hollywood’s more capable comedic actresses so her role here should have rewarded her to far greater degree.
The downsides to Gambit are that this is all a bit lightweight. The classic capers from the past all had tight plots whereas Gambit tends to run with one idea to exhaustion. Then there are the copious nods to stereotypical characters like the Japanese businessmen which serve a general purpose in terms of plot but doesn’t utilise the full comedy potential of the premise. The love angle also feels like a bit of an afterthought.
There are faults but on the whole, Gambit is an entertaining ride to take thanks largely to its excellent cast. It won’t stay with you for long after the end credits roll but there are enough set-pieces to make this an amusing distraction. With Firth and Rickman on fine form, there is definitely something to enjoy here.