Gambit (2 stars)


Charmless remake of 1966 caper flick, starring Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Cameron Diaz

A very loose remake of the 1966 film starring Michael Caine as a cat burglar, the most notable thing about this art scam caper movie is that it’s been written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Don’t get too excited, though. While it boasts the precision plotting of, say, Intolerable Cruelty and the odd Coen-like caricature, it lacks the plain weirdness that typifies their output. Instead, this infantile farce gets its smirks from fart jokes, a naked Alan Rickman and watching Colin Firth stroll through the Savoy Hotel without his trousers (don’t ask).

Firth plays Harry Deane, an art curator who plans to hoodwink his loathsome millionaire boss (Rickman) into buying a fake Monet with the help of his forger friend Major Wingate (Tom Courtenay) and a Texas rodeo queen, PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz), who is far savvier than she first appears. While the film begins with the first of several rug-pulls – as Harry envisages the perfect crime and we briefly believe he’s pulled it off – the humour comes from watching his plans go hugely awry.

Like Firth, who is coming off the back of The King’s Speech and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, director Michael Hoffman took this on following his Oscar-nominated Tolstoy tale The Last Station. Maybe they needed something light-hearted. And while it’s brisk enough, and neatly executed, it all feels rather below their collective talents; as tacky, you might say, as the Savoy’s explicit self-promotion in the film.

Diaz is convincing enough as the fish-out-of-water and there’s a nice cameo from Stanley Tucci, hamming it up something chronic as a German art expert (reminiscent of David Thewlis’ pretentious artist in the Coens’ own The Big Lebowski). But Firth, despite the Harry Palmer style glasses, lacks the roguish charm of Caine. Perhaps he should stick to playing monarchs.

General release from Wed 21 Nov.

Full length trailer of GAMBIT (HD quality)


  • 2 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 29min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Michael Hoffman
  • Written by: Ethan Coen (screenplay), Joel Coen (screenplay)
  • Cast: Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Cameron Diaz, Stanley Tucci
  • UK release: 21 November 2012

Harry Deane (Firth) is an art curator who plans to hoodwink his loathsome millionaire boss (Rickman) into buying a fake Monet. Tacky and infantile farce, loosely based on a 1966 Michael Caine movie and scripted by the Coen Brothers at far below their usual level.