PUBLISHED: 09:25 23 November 2012
It has the Coen Brothers name on it but this comedy about an art forgery con shouldn't be mistaken for one of theirs - you will be hard pressed to find much evidence of their handiwork.
The script is credited to them but little else in this story about an uptight, downtrodden art historian (Colin Firth) trying to put one over his crass multimillionaire boss (Alan Rickman).
The film is based on a 1960s movie starring Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine and this contemporary version has updated it all the way to the 1970s. Apart from some scenes in modish office buildings in the City, this resembles a Michael Winner film scripted by Ray Cooney. It looks 70s cheap and nasty and, a few sharp lines aside, the jokes and playing are 70s broad.
“The con is on,” the posters promise, but the con is nothing more than trying to flog a forged Matisse to a vulgarian. It is not much of a plot to string out for an hour-and-a-half even with Diaz flapping around as the rogue element American, the gambit of the title.
Your wonderment at how the Coens could have had anything to do with this will be mild compared with the mystery of what the cast are up to. Firth’s part is so much the archetypal repressed, stiff upper lip Englishman that, though he doesn’t once have a brolly or bowler hat, the mind’s eye instinctively paints them in. His relentless, inappropriate deference and formality is funny in the initial Texas scenes but soon becomes tiresome.
Hugh Grant may have been able to put some life into this character but Firth plays him like a cardboard cut-out of Colin Firth.
Rickman is the crass villain, a man so thoroughly shifty his whole character changes after ten minutes. Initially he is played as a barrow boy done good, with Rickman awkwardly trying to do commoner.
That, however, is swiftly abandoned and he goes back to the standard Rickman baddie – aloof, effete and superior, like Gordon Gekko played by Kenneth Williams.
Director: Michael Hoffman
Starring: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtney and Stanley Tucci
Length: 89 mins