IoS film review 2: Gambit
End of Watch

Con caper that is guaranteed to leave you feeling truly conned

Sometimes, films just go wrong. Gambit, for example, is a lightweight con-man caper with a star-studded cast and a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, so it sounds as if should be a fun night out. It isn't. From the opening scenes – which have been cut to confetti in the editing suite and then sticky-taped together with yards of voiceover – it's obvious not only that the film isn't working, but that the people behind it knew it wasn't working. What's particularly sad is that the project, nominally a remake of a Michael Caine/Shirley MacLaine vehicle from the Swinging Sixties, has been in development for 14 years.

Its fundamental problem is that the crimes in caper movies have to be mazes of twists and bluffs and last-minute improvisations, whereas in Gambit the plan is back-of-an-envelope simple. Colin Firth stars as a stuffy art expert who gets his friend Tom Courtenay to forge a Monet, and then pays a backwoods Texan cowgirl, Cameron Diaz, to flog the painting to his boss, a nasty media mogul played by Alan Rickman. Complications? Well, Firth gets in a tizzy about the minibar tab in Diaz's London hotel suite, but otherwise there aren't any setbacks to speak of, which means that the film can barely limp to the 90-minute mark.

The pace is agonisingly slow, and the jokes keep hanging around well after they've stopped being funny – not that they were side-splitting in the first place. Most of the comedy comprises Firth repeating the word "nudist" and getting punched on the nose, Rickman growling at his subordinates, a group of Japanese businessmen doing a wacky Japanese businessmen act, and Diaz hollering, "Your whole cockamamie scheme just went blooey!" Of course, we don't know how much of the Coens' script made it to the final cut, but if they wrote even a fraction of what we see on screen, they must have been having an off day.

Worst of all, the film's central half-hour has nothing to do with the main Monet escapade, which makes it irrelevant to the half-hours that precede it and follow it. Some of this irrelevance involves Firth blundering around The Savoy with no trousers on, which might appeal to anyone who still gets weak at the knees at the memory of Mr Darcy. Everyone else will leave this con-man movie feeling that they're the ones who have been conned.

David Ayer is best known for his Training Day screenplay, so it can't have been too much of a stretch for him to write and direct End of Watch, another punchy police procedural in which two cool cops cruise around South Central Los Angeles. The difference here is that Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena aren't corrupt, relatively speaking. They may enjoy the odd punch‑up with some of the low lifes they encounter on their poverty-stricken patch, but essentially they're tireless, fearless young partners, devoted to the job and to each other.

The other difference is that End of Watch uses "found footage"; ie, like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, it professes to be filmed by the characters' own cameras. The conceit is that Gyllenhaal is recording his day-to-day life for a college course, but Ayer doesn't stick with this faux-documentary gimmick, nor does he make any interesting use of it, so I'd assume it's there principally to justify the film's lack of plot. End of Watch isn't about cracking a specific case; it's about riding along with two wisecracking buddies for a year or so, with less emphasis on the nerve-pummelling shoot-outs and chase sequences than on the pranks they play on their colleagues, and on Gyllenhaal's romance with an underused Anna Kendrick. The heroes' blokey chemistry ensures that End of Watch isn't hard to watch, but it ends up steering its squad car between two stools – with neither the authenticity of a genuine documentary nor the narrative drive of a brazenly fictional thriller.

Critic's choice

In Michael Haneke's Amour, the Austrian maestro offers a tender but devastating picture of the sorrows of old age and mortality. For more rugged tastes, follow that camel! David Lean's peerless Lawrence of Arabia returns in the form of a restored director's cut.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders