‘Gambit’ review: It doesn’t quite pay off

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March 24, 2013 by Hope W.

Gambit

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman, Anna Skellern, Togo Igawa
Directed by: Michael Hoffman
Release Date: 2013

If the stellar duo of Colin Firth and Alan Rickman, and the prestigious pedigree of the Coen brothers had attracted you to Gambit, you will be sorely disappointed. And rather befuddled, really, that Colin Firth decided to make this film.

The synopsis on IMDb sounds innocuous enough: “An art curator decides to seek revenge on his abusive boss by conning him into buying a fake Monet, but his plan requires the help of an eccentric and unpredictable Texas rodeo queen.” Which leaves you completely unprepared for the surprise, 10 minutes into the movie, when you realise that Harry Dean (Colin Firth) is not so much a harassed, overworked employee, than a bumbling idiot.

From there on, it is difficult to sympathise with him, because he goes on to commit such ludicrous blunders and hijinks that anyone thinking clearly, much less his shrewd and no-nonsense boss (Alan Rickman), would find it hard to tolerate him.

Which is a pity, since Colin Firth puts in so much effort to play Harry Dean as an earnest, misguided, but well-intentioned guy that still deserves to be likeable. It may not be the fault of the writing; after all, the Coen brothers have pulled off ridiculous characters in the past (see Burn After Reading and Brad Pitt’s even more airheaded role in it). It may just be that the former King George V is too dignified to pull off characters that are more suited to Rowan Atkinson’s expertise in being Mr. Bean.

And though there are scenes that shine in their humorous juxtaposition, the movie is bogged down with several horrible characterisations — which includes Cameron Diaz’s terrible Texan accent, and some Japanese businessmen stereotypes so cringeworthy that I wondered while watching if the filmmakers were fending off racism lawsuits. The last five minutes of the film pulls a huge twist, and makes it clear why everyone behaved as they did (though in Harry Dean’s case, I’m not entirely convinced that it was all deliberate). But it did not negate the fact that for the first 85 minutes of it, I had to suffer through Colin Firth playing a bumbling idiot.

The “gambit” in the movie title seems more to be whether Colin Firth can convince in a stupid role. Unlike the heist, it didn’t pay off.

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