A remake of the same-named 1966 film, 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.
It might be directed by Michael Hoffman (One Fine Day) but the reason there's a spotlight on Gambit is because of its writers, Joel and Ethan Coen, who are in Burn After Reading mode in their latest effort. Setting itself up as simple, easygoing fun, it's unfortunately a dreary, unfunny affair. There's a reason why the Coens didn't direct it themselves.
Colin Firth works for Alan Rickman's media mogul, who delights in humiliating Firth's gofer in public. Fed up with the putdowns and degradation, Firth dreams up a convoluted plot to get his own back: he employs Cameron Diaz's Texan trailer trash rodeo queen to lie about owning a rare Monet and flies her over to London to ensnare Rickman's thirst to complete his Impressionist collection. However, best laid plans and all that, keeping the flighty Diaz in upper society is a drain on Firth's finances and the fake Monet is always in danger of being found out.
Gambit was never going to be a deep thinker - it's animated opening credit sequence reminiscent of The Pink Panther - but that doesn't excuse the lack of ideas on show. Like Diaz's overstated Texan accent, Gambit is played at a higher note. This is fine, but the farcical developments, with British innuendo and humour that went AWOL from an old Carry On movie, get irritating. Because the gags are poor, and caring whether or not Firth pulls off his caper a non-issue, Hoffman tries to distract us by employing a knockabout style; the opening fifteen minutes boasts flashbacks and flashforwards set to a jazzy soundtrack and vibrant colours. However, it's all in vain.
Thankfully Firth is game. Suited and glassed, coming on more Bridget Jones than A Single Man, he's so damn likeable it's difficult to blame him for anything, when all he's asked to do is get locked in closets and hang off the end of buildings. Tucci (very German unt very camp) isn't afforded the same goodwill while Diaz is so forgettable she's hardly worth mentioning. And then there’s Rickman's inexplicable desire to go nude.
There is a decent romp to make here, but not even the Coen stamp could rescue it.