Ep. 49: Gambit

Jenny, Lucy and Alastair talk about wasted potential, a weak protagonist, structural audacity, loving Shirley MacLain and how much they’re looking forward to the remake.

Get the podcast: [Listen here at PopD] | [Go to iTunes]

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Lucy says: 2.5 Pops ~ A charming movie with tremendous potential, but which doesn’t quite live up to it. Funny, cute, and fun enough – I’d watch it again – but I’m really looking forward to the remake.
Lucy’s rating breakdown: Craft: 3, Comedy: 3, Suspense: 2, Romance: 1

Jenny says: 2.5 Pops ~ This is one of those movies that really should be remade. Huge potential, terrific cast, awful pacing and a romance that’s just not there on the screen.
Jenny’s rating breakdown: Craft: 3, Comedy: 3, Suspense: 2, Romance: 1

Alastair says: 3 Pops ~ I give the movie credit for trying something audacious, but the writers weren’t up to the task. Let’s all hope that Cameron Diaz raises her game for the remake, and we get the movie this has the potential to be.
Alastair’s rating breakdown: Craft: 3, Comedy: 4, Suspense: 2, Romance: 1

Blog Poll Rating: TBD

Read the chat transcript here!

Movie Info:

Story: Harry the Thief hires beautiful Nicole to help con his mark, telling her to just keep her mouth shut and let him do the talking. Like that’s going to happen. Release Date: January 7, 1967 Writers: Jack Davies and Alan Sargent

Breaking News: The Coen Brothers have written a remake of this with Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, and Alan Rickman. Unfortunately, they’re not directing.

, , ,

8 responses to “Ep. 49: Gambit”

  1. I like this movie, but that’s mostly because I love Shirley MacLaine in it. I’ve only seen it twice, but what they did with the beginning has worked for me both times. Again, I think it’s because of Nicole. As far as the end, when you guys say he lied to her, do you mean about the extra replicas? Because what I got from the end was that his partner made those without his knowledge, and decided to go ahead with the plan without Harry. I could be off on this. I watched it a couple weeks ago. But considering that they establish that this is his first crime, and how incompetent he was through most of it, that’s the explanation that made sense to me.

  2. I enjoyed the movie even though it really was one of those movies that I know my dad must’ve really REALLY enjoyed at one time and my mom must’ve hated which explains why I’ve never seen it before.

    What I enjoyed most was the interplay between Harry and Nicole, even if it did piss me off a bit when he was surprised at how intelligent she really was. The ‘I love you’ was ridiculous, as far as I was concerned. I didn’t get any sense that there was any lead up to this – other than his surprise at her skills, intelligence, etc – and even then he didn’t seem to really care enough to notice.

    It is remarkable to think that the beginning piece is 30 mins and the entire film is 100m so nearly 1/3 of the film is given to the set up. I’m intrigued by the idea of the remake. There’s no way they can keep this style of pacing but it’s also amazing that even with this first third dealt with this way it didn’t totally weigh down the entire plot.

  3. (Posting before I listen to the podcast…yes, I’m watching it a week late.) Wow. I was expecting to hate it. Zombie Robot Shirley was giving me the creeps. Could not figure out why they were doing that. And as it turned out, WHAT a way to start the movie! What a way to make that work! You’d better hope the audience doesn’t get annoyed and walk out early, that’s the one risk you’re taking with that, but otherwise… wow. Twists aplenty and characters (other than Harry, and even he has a moment at the end) who aren’t idiots. I actually liked it and I normally seem to really hate most 60’s movies.

    The one major problem for me (aside from pretending that Shirley MacLaine is Eurasian, but anyway) was yeah, no real romance. I was rooting for her to get together with the rich guy, for crying out loud. He seems decent, why not?

  4. Lucy said, paraphrased, “He doesn’t think of a clever way to get out of it. He just sidesteps it.”

    (Forgive me this might be ramble-y.)

    Question to focus on before I possibly confuse you: What makes a good Caper/Heist?

    The above paraphrased quote had me thinking of why I hated Ocean’s 12. There was nothing clever to the con. They simply went to the guy who had stole the egg before and asked him to do it again. I think what makes the Caper/Heist work is that the major component of the character is that they are smart, they are clever and they simply can do what the average Joe cannot imagine doing. At the reveal you have to get a sense that the character(s) are just that smart/quick/debonair to have pulled it off. But, it has to be something that the viewer wouldn’t be able to pull off. Anyone can ask for a favor. As seen in Ocean’s 12.

    Now, the lines get blurry because for me because, well, with both a bad and a good Caper I’m also the one being conned. With all three Ocean’s I’m shown the con through slight of hand An example that comes to mind is the Nigerian Job from Leverage. Christian Kane is shown changing the sign of the company’s name. In the reveal you see that it was the second time he was changing the sign. Or in the same episode Sophie takes the piece of paper with a dollar amount from the antagonist and gives it to the Nigerian. What we don’t know in the first viewing is that she’s handing the Nigerian a check instead. Now the viewer may not see what is happening clearly, but when they do the reveal it all makes sense.

    In Ocean’s 12 it is shown that they get on a plane where they ask for the favor. It also shows Matt Damon clutching a backpack with the real egg. In the reveal you see the big fight where the exchange is made. At the end of the movie though I don’t get that charge.

    Yet with Leverage I never walk away from a show feeling cheated. I’m charmed that they not only pulled the con right under the antagonist’s nose, but mine too.

    Does that feeling simply come down to they let me, the viewer, in on the con but still outsmarted me? Or, do they simply have to convince me that they (let’s use Nate and his team for example) can steal a movie/company/miracle/UCF fighter if they really put their mind to it?

    Hopefully, this makes sense.

    As a sidenote: Will there be a bonus episode for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?

  5. Oh, we have to do Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. I’ve been wanting to do a mystery series–Laura, The Thin Man, Charade, Foul Play, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang–so maybe we’ll do that after the TV series stuff instead of Adventure. Although I love the four Adventure movies we decided on.

    Capers, heists. I think they really depend more strongly on the protagonist than any other kind of story. The Trickster–Nate Ford, Danny Ocean, whoever–authors the plan and therefore the story, and then like all authors finds his story getting away from him and does a rewrite on the fly to bring it to a happy ending. But I think he’s also like watching a magician. You know the magician is going to fool you, and you want to be fooled. You’re complicit in your own con because you want to believe for that moment. But after the trick, you really do want to know how it worked, and I think that’s where Leverage comes in. You know the Leverage team is going to win, you just don’t know how. I think “The Nigerian Job” is one of the most brilliant pilots I’ve ever seen. You can’t not see the next episode. But the one I really love is “The Rashomen Job” when you realize that they all have different versions of reality until it all comes down to Nate, and even that version is skewed to favor him. Leverage plays with that concept of crossing the boundaries of reality really, really well.

  6. First and foremost: YAY!!! Kiss Kiss Bang Bang might get a podcast.


    “I think they really depend more strongly on the protagonist than any other kind of story. The Trickster–Nate Ford, Danny Ocean, whoever–authors the plan and therefore the story, and then like all authors finds his story getting away from him and does a rewrite on the fly to bring it to a happy ending.”

    It always goes back to character, doesn’t it? With the romantic comedy series both the romance and the comedy had to be true to character. You and Lucy rated romance and comedy separately. It’s how my brain has been working when I look at the movies you review. I’m coming to caper, heist movies with the same concept, because when it comes down to the why something did or didn’t work it’s easier to break it down in parts.

    I think you can look at this type of movie and see there is a “rate” for the Trickster hero and the con. If you don’t have both the movie wobbles. Much like having a good romance, but the comedy sucked. (Or vice versa.)

    So, like the comedy, the con has to come from character. Trickster hero = smart con. So when the equation is Trickster hero = dumb con, it’s the way the caper, heist can fail. Or when you don’t really have a Trickster hero and it’s a smart con as seen in Gambit and the Italian Job. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s the way you can violate character for this type of movie by having him/her do a con that he/she would never do just to serve the purpose of the story. In any form when you violate the character the story/movie fails.

  7. Oh, The Thin Man – woohoo!! please. pretty please. We only had one Hepburn -Tracy so a Myrna Loy/ William Powell would do nicely:)