"There's a scene where we see a monkey riding a dog. A monkey. On a dog."
With a screenplay provided by Hollywood heavyweights Joel and Ethan Coen, Gambit is a remake of the 1966 Oscar nominated hit starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. However, despite being close to fifty years apart – Michael Hoffman's updated version of events feels like it has come straight out of the very same era in which the original was set, although whether that is a positive or not is another matter entirely.
Colin Firth revises Caine's role as Harry Dean, a conniving art curator who has his heart set on pulling off a multimillion pound heist, whereby his close friend Major Wingate (Tom Courtenay) will counterfeit a piece of work by famous artist Monet, only for Harry to sell it back to his rich boss Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman) for millions of pounds. However, to successfully complete his heist, he needs a gambit.
Harry and the Major travel to Texas to persuade cowgirl PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz) to fly to London and meet with Shahbandar, and to pretend that the fake painting belonged to her grandfather and that she was willing to sell. As the one piece of art the entrepreneur desires most, Shahbandar shows an interest, but turning that interest into £12 million is another matter altogether, as what should be a straightforward operation, soon turns into a disaster...
Gambit is your typical, overstated farce and one that is evidently vying for an American market. The characters are caricatures of themselves, embellished for cinematic effect. Firth plays – as per usual – the bumbling Brit, Rickman the overly camp and lavish billionaire, and Diaz the dippy blonde with a heart of gold. The picture plays up to its London setting also which will no doubt appease a worldwide market. However despite being over-the-top, such an approach suits the farcical nature of the film as there really isn't any other way to tackle such a story.
Ignoring the fact Gambit is a remake, it still doesn't feel original enough, with a series of jokes we've all seen before, lacking edge and innovation. Yet, credit where it's due, the film ticks along at a fast pace and you never once doubt your enjoyment of this feature. Simple it may be, but it is funny, and thankfully, under 90 minutes.
My favourite aspect to this film is how we see the entire heist played out in Harry's mind, before it's properly begun, as he envisages a perfectly construed version of events, with everything running smoothly and to plan. Of course, we then witness what really happens, which makes for enjoyable viewing, as we see the many checkpoints along the way, and certain moments that we had already seen played out perfectly – only to then watch how it follows a somewhat different path, with a few more punches to Harry's face along the way.
Gambit is what it is; a harmless, undemanding farce that keeps you engaged throughout. It bears a witty script with a host of memorable one-liners and cheap gags littered across the movie, if a little elementary. This isn't a sharp or intelligent piece of comedy, it's childish and inane, but that's the entire point. Oh, and there's a scene where we see a monkey riding a dog. A monkey. On a dog. If that doesn't persuade you to give this a go, then what on earth will?