Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Herbert Lom
Director: Ronald Neame
Running Time: 109 mins
Gambit is an American film about an English cat burglar who teams up with an exotic dancer from Hong Kong in a surely foolproof scheme to steal a priceless and ancient bust from the world’s richest man.
This is such a fun film. Apart from being a really entertaining and consistently funny comedy, it excels with a genuinely interesting and often unpredictable story, a fantastic Bond/Harry Palmer parody element, and two brilliant central performances that make for a hugely enjoyable watch from start to finish.
Any film starring two classic actors like Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine is sure to be great, but what really makes this film work is how fantastic their chemistry is. Playing off one another hilariously throughout the movie, all the while doing great jobs in their individual performances to bring their own caricatures to life, the on-screen relationship between MacLaine and Caine is the real core of this movie, making for countless laughs and a good bit of excitement right the way through.
What’s even better about the performances, and this movie in general, is how fun-loving it is when it comes to parodying the heist genre. Michael Caine does a stunning job at playing on his own character from The Ipcress File and Funeral In Berlin, all the while poking fun at James Bond, whilst Shirley MacLaine does just as well with a very energetic and entertaining turn as the stereotypical Bond girl, whether it be the suave and sexy or the ridiculously ditsy sort.
But it’s not just the performances that make this film so great, the general sense of humour is right on point from beginning to end. Not only does it have a heap of excellent gags to make you burst out laughing, but it’s also a very witty satire on the tropes of the heist/crime/spy genre, and as the lead actors play up their own caricatures, the story is full of hilarious jabs at the genre.
Its brightest moment comes just at the end of the first act, with a brilliantly original and well-earned twist that feels so rewarding after what seems like a shaky start. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that if you wait twenty-five minutes or so, you’re in for one of the cleverest and most original jokes you’ll ever see on the big screen.
But from then on, it’s all just as hilarious. The story keeps things interesting with a degree of unpredictability and drama, but the best of the film comes from the humour. Its running gag of contrasting the events of the main story with the opening act is ingenious, whilst the general screwball humour that comes up in the relationship between MacLaine and Caine’s characters is all the more brilliant.
Overall, I loved Gambit. Not only is it an excellent Bond parody, but it’s a genuinely intelligent, witty and hilarious movie all on its own. With fantastic writing throughout furthered by two brilliant central performances, there’s no doubt that this film is a huge heap of fun, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.