GAMBIT. Starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courteney, Cloris Leachman. Directed by Michael Hoffman. Rated PG (Mild coarse language, violence and sexual references). 89 minutes.

This is a brief, light, comic story of art forgery and theft. It is humorous and easy entertainment. And then we discover that the screenplay was written by the Coen Brothers (who directed the rather dire re-make of Ealing Studios’ The Lady Killers, so perhaps it was better that they did not direct this one at the 21st century Ealing Studios.)

In 1967, Gambit was released starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. It was a frothy comedy caper of the period. Not the kind of film that would come to mind for a re-make. However, audiences who catch up with it will be pleased that they did. In fact, anyone who saw it on its first release will turn 60 next year! So one could say that there is an audience for a re-make.

This time the stars are Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz. Firth plays a rather more upper- class bespectacled version of Michael Caine in his day. He is an art adviser, resentful of his rather lowly status and the treatment by his boss. He devises a scheme to swindle his boss out of one is for favourite Monet paintings. He is more than aided and abetted by an old military veteran, played with aplomb by Tom Courtney. We see them in Texas, looking for the granddaughter of a veteran who may or may not have acquired the Monet during World War Two when it had been taken by Goerring.

Instead of a dancer, as Shirley MacLaine was in the original, Cameron Diaz is a rodeo expert and can tie up a calf within seconds, something very useful in a really unexpected way later in the film.

The main twist is at the beginning of the film rather than at the end which makes it more entertaining.

While Colin Firth is expert at the uptight Englishman, Cameron Diaz is delightfully exuberant as the Texas cowgal. She is clearly enjoying herself in this kind of lively performance.

The target of the robbery is the proprietor of a whole range of magazines. He treats people in a detestable way, as only Alan Rickman can. He spurns Firth but then relies on him for expert art of advice, especially on Monet. However, there is a German expert in the wings who may get the job. He appears only twice, but does so amusingly in the form of Stanley Tucci.

While the plan may seem foolproof, it definitely isn’t. There are all kinds of mix ups in the hotel, with some PG-rated sex farce. There is the lavish party with a whole range of intoxicated and hungry Japanese who are to do a deal with Rickman but get sidetracked into karaoke.

In the meantime, Firth has to substitute the forgery for the real painting and encounters a form of security that he never dreamt of. It looks as though the whole plan will fall through.

Needless to say, the whole thing does work out to the satisfaction of everyone, including Rickman who is seen at the end contemplating his acquired forgery.

This is a soufflé of a movie, but fans of Colin Firth will admire his serious portrayal and his laughing at the end. Fans of Cameron Diaz will also enjoy her vivacious screen presence.  

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Roadshow Films.

Out August 8 2013.

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