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Written by the Coen brothers Joel and Ethan, Gambit is the remake of the 1966 heist comedy of the same name starring Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine, which this film had borrowed its base premise from in having what's expected played out in the mind of one of its protagonist, before having its actual execution go completely and hilariously wrong. And once this had started off as a troubled production with cast and crew suffered from a revolving doors syndrome, it finally nailed its key casting of Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman, all of whom prove to be what made Gambit an engaging movie to sit through and effortlessly hitting all the sweet spots that a heist comedy should hit.
Colin Firth plays Harry Deane, an art curator working for Lionel Shahbandar (Alan Rickman), a mean and scrooge like businessman who doesn't think twice in hurling insults of all shapes and form at his employee base should they get in his way, in any way. Clearly unliked by many, and by Harry of course, who hatches a plot to skim millions off his employer as revenge. To do so meant to come up with an elaborate plot involving Monet's Haystacks series of paintings, and travelling the world in search of a possible bait to play along and boost the credibility of the story he concocts. This brings together The Major (Tom Courtenay), a master forger, and P.J. Puznowski (Cameron Diaz), a ditzy cowgirl from the USA to bolster his plot for a cool promise of a half a million sterling pound reward for basically sealing the deal.
And true to the original work, we get to see how the perfect heist plays out in perfect terms, as would any heist film in laying out the challenge, and the objective, with a quick run of the process and the plan in order to fulfill what the motley crew got assembled for. But when things start to swing into action, this means Murphy's Law being applied liberally by the Coen Brothers, and makes for a hilarious film with excellent comic timing brought on by all three leads. Classical moments include the entire sequence at the Savoy hotel as Harry got sidetracked into trying to go for a Ming vase, and of course, the inevitable twist within the twist as its crescendo that makes this very much fulfilling and less empty had this been nothing more than a straight-forward narrative.
Colin Firth proved to be more than capable in being the gentleman's gentleman with an axe to grind with his employer, and getting back through the only means he knows how, being surprisingly quick thinking especially toward the end. Stanley Tucci makes a small supporting appearance as his professional adversary, while over the top, does suggest a thought about how we tend to think that foreign experts are the best, often overlooking equally capable, or in some instances, more than capable, locals for the job. Firth's comic timing is impeccable, and is primarily responsible for holding the narrative together. Diaz goes back to what she does best as the ditzy blonde with her own street smarts to get out of sticky situations, who is aware that she holds the key to the success of Harry's absurd plan, while Alan Rickman shows what it takes to be a fiend, and yet a likeable one whose presence and background may draw a sympathetic eye or two.
Like almost all heist films, the payload is toward the end where things get revealed for what they truly are. Gambit has more than its fair share of surprises, reaffirming some plot points brought up but debunked early, and red herrings galore that got closed off. This is probably the Coen Brother's most accessible story to date, playing it in straightforward fashion, and while it's no insult to director Michael Hoffman, perhaps the film may be more interesting if we got to see the Coen Brothers' take on this. Still, for what it's worth, Gambit is recommended for the performance of its cast who delivered as expected without playing against type.