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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried