Gambit had a troublesome development since its conception in 1997. Being a remake of the popular 1966 caper of the same name, screenplay duties were given to the Coen Brothers. This created a buzz amongst cinephiles since Joel and Ethan Coen hadn’t been credited solely as screenwriters before, yet the production remained in development limbo until shooting began in May 2011. The wait is now over.
Gambit places Colin Firth in the shoes of Harry Dean, an intelligent yet bumbling art curator in dire straits as he attempts a major con on his very wealthy boss Shabandar, played by Alan Rickman. Cameron Diaz plays cowgirl PJ Puznowzki (a name which is the butt of many jokes in the film), the naive accidental owner of a fake Monet which Harry Dean plans to sell to his boss for £12 million. The plan does not unfold as simply and subtly as they had hoped, with their bickering and internal differences eventually becoming a greater obstacle than Shabandar’s impenetrable stubborn nature.
An immediate difference is the change in characters between the original and remake. Where Caine’s Harry Dean was boastful yet capably cunning, Firth’s Harry Dean is somewhat of a failure. He is no match for the hostility of other males; his face is constantly bruised and nose constantly broken as his grand plan often goes awry due to his blundering shortcomings. It seems that Firth’s Harry Dean is the newest addition to the modern British bumbling-but persevering protagonist, best portrayed by Hugh Grant’s character in Notting Hill – a binary opposite to the effortlessly nifty 1960s Caine-esque protagonist. The film’s most colourful character by far is Rickman’s Shabandar. The greedy ‘more money than sense’ billionaire is repulsive from the start, but his cringe-worthy phrases are delightful when spoken with Rickman’s unique voice and manner.
Despite the film’s troubled production, Gambit prevails and effectively relishes the swinging sixties Brit-caper mood of its predecessor whilst introducing fresh elements into the genre, resulting in a competent comedy for all ages.
Watch the trailer for Gambit here: