‘Gambit’ Review: “An Optimist is Simply a Man who Hasn’t Heard the News”

Posted in The Screening Room by - November 06, 2015

My final assignment for the month is a film directed by Michael Hoffman and written by the Coen brothers. Gambit (2012) is a remake of the the Michael Cain vehicle of the same name back in 1966. The original involves an accomplished cat burglar convincing a dancer to help him. This version is about a relatively idiotic art curator trying to get a rodeo rider to help him. My other films for the month have had positive qualities, but failed to reach a level of value that convinced me to suggest them to you, dear readers. I began this week’s task with hope, but little faith in Gambit.

It opens with an original, quality credits sequence, an effect you don’t see nearly often enough in modern cinema, and one that started the feature off on a positive note. It stars Colin Firth as Harry Deane, Art curator, fed up with his boss and planning a crime, Tom Courtenay as the Major, a painting forger friend of Deane, Alan Rickman as Mr. Shabanda, an enjoyably asshole of a boss who enjoys working in the nude, and Cameron Diaz as P.J. Puznowski, the rodeo riding descendant of a famous soldier. The film also includes a part for Stanley Tucci, as a competing curator hired to replace Deane.

Deane plans on tricking his arrogant boss in to buying a counterfeit of “Haystacks Dusk”, a painting stolen by Nazi soldiers during World War II and liberated by a particularly notable Nazi killer. After the painting was liberated, it disappeared, and Deane’s boss has sought it since he acquired it’s partner painting, “Haystacks Dawn”. However, Dean is far less competent than he believes himself to be, and PJ is far less behaved then he expected, and Shabanda is far more shrewd than Deane planned. It is narrated by Major, a relative bystander in the story, but an interesting view point.

All things considered, the film has a distinct Coen feel to it, but without the blatant Coen style so often associated with their features. It has an entertaining plot, with a fun ending. It has an interesting feel, and Alan Rickman is fantastic as usual, Courtenay is a wholly loveable little supporting character. Unfortunately some of the feature’s other performances are a little stale and overdone. It’s a watchable film, and finally one that I can recommend, though not with my usual hearty level of enthusiasm.

Final Say: Watch It

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Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn’t watching movies he’s playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.

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