Coens’ credit is non-com’s big­gest forgery

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILMREVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

GAM­BIT ★ Di­rected by Michael Hoffman. Star­ring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rick­man, Stan­ley Tucci, Cloris Leach­man, Tom Courte­nay 12A cert, gen­eral re­lease, 90 min FEW PROJECTS emerge from de­vel­op­ment hell with­out some singe­ing of the ear­lobes or blis­ter­ing of the toes. This re­make of a so-so swing­ing Lon­don com­edy from 1966 has been kick­ing around so long it once had DW Grif­fith at­tached as di­rec­tor (well, not re­ally). Some­where along the line, two broth­ers named Joel and Ethan Coen penned a script that even­tu­ally pro­vided the plat­form for this wit­less far­rago of cheap farce and low-level racism.

Cameron Diaz plays a Texan who wields a lasso and says “yeeha”. Colin Firth es­says the sort of com­edy English­man who can’t pass a teashop with­out emit­ting a “jolly good”. It goes on. Given the qual­ity

cul­ture

of the film, we must as­sume that these Coens are no re­la­tion to the sib­lings who make films that rarely en­cour­age you to poke out your eyes with rusty scis­sors.

The plot has some­thing to do with a shy, in­tro­verted English­man, an art ex­pert for a con­glomer- ate, who seeks to swin­dle his mad boss (Alan Rick­man) out of a for­tune by flog­ging him a forged Monet. Mr Firth is the stut­ter­ing fool. Ms Diaz is the Amer­i­can whose fam­ily cir­cum­stances grant the fake paint­ing some prove­nance. Stan­ley Tucci is the funny Ger­man who tele­graphs his Teu­tonic roots by (hon­est, we’re not mak­ing this up) reg­u­larly click­ing his heels.

The least men­tioned about Firth’s tal­ents for com­edy, the soon­est mended. He’s very good at psy­cho­log­i­cally dam­aged mon­archs. He is great at in­hib­ited Ge­or­gian love­boats. But his per­for­mance in Gam­bit – too much of which re­quires him to skulk trouser­less in broom cup­boards — trig­gers a de­sire to stomp round to Hugh Grant’s house and, while bran­dish­ing a firearm, de­mand that he emerge from semi-re­tire­ment at the soon­est op­por­tu­nity.

Some crit­ics, em­brac­ing the im­pend­ing sea­son of good­will, have sug­gested that the en­tire project is a sly pas­tiche that ac­tively em­braces anachro­nism. They may well be right. If so, the pic­ture’s stink has a slightly more com­plex fin­ish. But it still stinks.

The English fool and the Amer­i­can cow­girl: Firth and Diaz are hope­less

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