Attention, bosses of the world. Remember to treat your employees with respect. Gambit shows what terrible things can happen if you constantly belittle one of your workers, even someone as frequently clueless as art curator Harry Deane. In this amusing comedy written by the Coen brothers and directed by Michael Hoffman, the versatile Colin Firth plays hapless Harry -- and the wonderful Alan Rickman portrays an arrogant billionaire art collector obsessed with a certain Monet painting. Adding to the fun are Cameron Diaz as a spunky Texas rodeo queen and Tom Courtenay in the role of an amiable art forger. Taking us from London to Texas, the film deals with Harry’s clever plan to steal a valuable Monet painting while making Rickman’s character pay for the many times this snobbish boss has humiliated him.
For Harry’s plan to work, he needs help from The Major (Courtenay, so terrific in Quartet) and PJ Puznowski (Diaz). The Major signs on right away, but PJ has to be persuaded, and that means a trip to Texas to get her out of the rodeo and on board the con, which involves verifying that a Monet painting has been hanging in her grandmother’s (Cloris Leachman) caravan for many years. Outspoken, disarming and more energetic than the rest of the characters put together, PJ agrees to join the co-conspirators in London. So far, so good. But – as with many plans like this – things fail to go as expected.
This surprises Harry, for he has fantasized about what’s supposed to happen as his “perfect” plan runs its course. His biggest problem involves Lionel Shahbandar’s (Rickman) attraction to PJ and the relationship that seems to be developing between them. Also, because Lionel doesn’t trust Harry, he’s hired another art expert (Stanley Tucci) to authenticate the Monet painting Harry “found” in Texas. How will our hero handle these glitches?
It’s such a treat watching Harry go through so many antics to make things come out right! Firth (The King’s Speech) demonstrates flawless comic timing and a knack for gentle slapstick during many sequences that might have bombed with another actor playing Harry. Diaz (What Happens in Vegas) brings her usual effervescence to the role of PJ, and Rickman (Love Actually) goes the extra mile (and without wardrobe in a couple of scenes!) to give Lionel a privileged attitude we love to hate.
Clear, slick cinematography by Florian Ballhaus (The Devil Wears Prada) works well in Gambit. The plush Savoy Hotel looks especially appealing here. Rolfe Kent’s (Up in the Air) spirited music enhances the humorous tone of the film, and Hoffman’s (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) direction keeps the story moving along briskly. The Coen brothers (O Brother, Were Art Thou?) may not have written the most edgy of screenplays, but they included lots of witty dialogue.
Although Gambit doesn’t come across as a rolling-in-the-aisles comedy, it’s entertaining and evokes plenty of smiles. Plus, surprises keep coming toward the end of the film. Could we have misjudged Harry all along? Enough said -- except that I enjoyed this remake even more than the 1966 original Gambit, which co-starred Michael Caine and Shirley MacClaine.
(Released by CBS Films and rated “PG-13” for some suggestive content, partial nudity and a rude gesture.)
For more information about Gambit, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.