MRR Review: "Gambit"

Photo Credit: CBS Films

Rating: PG-13
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: November 21, 2012
Directed by: Michael Hoffman
Genre: Comedy / Crime

The 1966 film "Gambit" tells the story of a vengeful man who concocts an elaborate scheme to pull off a heist, and it has recently received a modern makeover with the 2012 remake written by the Coen brothers and directed by Michael Hoffman. Harry is sick of being treated like dirt by his boss, so he seeks the aid of a sassy rodeo queen to swindle the boss out of a large sum of money. Although this film falls flat in a few areas, it features great acting and enough laughs to keep moviegoers thoroughly entertained.

Harry Deane, played by Colin Firth, is an art curator who is an accomplished expert in fine art. However, he is regularly stepped on by his insolent boss Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman), a cocky businessman who prides himself on his large art collection. Unable to stand the abuse, Harry decides to get back at his boss in an interesting way. He gets in contact with his old friend The Major (Tom Courtenay), and incredibly talented art forger, and asks him to forge a highly sought-after painting by Monet.

The two then travel to meet a beautiful Texan rodeo queen named PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz), who they wish to employ in their heist. They watch a rodeo before approaching the sassy Puznowski in a bar, careful to only tell her what she needs to know to complete her job. Harry's plan is flawless in his mind. The lovely, quirky Puznowski would approach Shahbandar with the forged painting, and he would eagerly purchase it for an enormous sum of money. After paying his team members, Harry would pocket the remaining cash.

Even the best plans go awry, however, and Harry's plan begins to unravel at the seams from the get-go. Shahbandar does not immediately fall for the scheme, as he is suspicious of the painting. However, he does take a liking to Puznowski, who begins forming schemes of her own. An inwardly frantic Harry must improvise if he has any hopes of pulling through with his overblown heist.

"Gambit" offers up plenty of humor for the savvy viewer, but this is not the type of movie that draws laughs with jokes and gags. Instead, director Michael Hoffman opts for more subtle, situational humor and clever wordplay for the comedy remake. The characters themselves are also made to clash in interesting and humorous ways, and the actors that bring them to the screen work hard to get audiences laughing.

Colin Firth can always be counted on, and he gives an unsurprisingly brilliant performance as the serious, low-key art curator. Alan Rickman is clearly having a good time as he portrays egotistical business man Lionel Shabandar, and the positive vibes are contagious. Stanley Tucci may play only a small role as the flamboyant German competitor of Shahbandar, but his scenes still stand out as some of the best in the movie. Although Cameron Diaz tries hard to convince audiences that she is a friendly, fun rodeo queen, viewers cannot help notice that her performance seems forced. Still, she is completely entertaining and hilarious in her outlandish role.

Fans of the original "Gambit" may be surprised that the 2012 remake features a plot that is very different from that of the 1966 version. Although the basic outline is the same, a man planning an elaborate heist with the help of a beautiful woman before everything goes wrong, the details of the characters are especially different. For instance, the woman in the 1966 version is a Eurasian dancer instead of a rodeo queen, and the protagonist is a gem burglar rather than an art curator. Still, fans of the original may find the remake enjoyable, and new audiences do not notice the difference.

Although "Gambit" does have its strong points, it also shows a few weaknesses that must be addressed. First, the plot itself often feels overly jumbled, and the pace is far too slow at some points. Also, some of the humor that the filmmakers try to sell in this comedy is tired and completely out of date. For a modern remake, "Gambit" could have used a little more pizazz to make it truly stand out as an uproarious comedy.

Despite its drawbacks, "Gambit" is an entertaining film that is sure to draw a few laughs from viewers. It may not live up to the high standards set by its classic remake, but it is sure to find a modern audience that appreciates its subtle humor. Overall, "Gambit" is a worthwhile film that would fare well in a stay-at-home movie night line-up.