This is a flat-footed remake of a mildly amusing 1966 caper movie starring Michael Caine as a cockney conman posing as an aristocrat who hires chorus girl Shirley MacLaine to help him cheat the infinitely rich Herbert Lom in Hong Kong and in a fictitious Arab state.

Joel and Ethan Coen have updated it to Texas and Britain with Colin Firth (in hornrim Caine-type spectacles) engaging Texas rodeo star Cameron Diaz to help shake down rich British bully and art collector Alan Rickman with a bogus Monet. The Coens hang on to the original Gambit‘s one clever idea, which comes early on and was used better in 1966.

Otherwise, they, director Hoffman and the film’s producers have decided to make a pastiche of a 1960s swinging London movie with all the familiar features, including the single word title once obligatory for smart comedy-thrillers (eg, Charade, Arabesque, Kaleidoscope), the cute animated credits in the Pink Panther manner, the Mancini-style score, the glossy London settings, the climactic scene at a British country house party and the thumping array of national stereotypes.

This article was written by Philip French, for The Observer on Sunday 25th November 2012 00.04 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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