I am a "Gambit" pimp.
For those of you unfamiliar with the film, you can go ahead and start writing me the "thank you" note you'll eventually send to me right now, because "Gambit" is one of those movies that people get passionate about after they've seen it. I was the same way. I'd never heard of it until QT Quattro, the fourth of Quentin Tarantino's film festivals in Austin where he would take over the Alamo Drafthouse for a week or more and just show prints that he owned. It was February of 2000 when I attended the festival where he showed "Gambit," and here's what I wrote about it afterwards:
I’ve never seen GAMBIT before. In fact, I’ve never heard of it. No matter. I’ve seen it now, and I’m totally taken with it. It’s one of the most consistently clever heist films I’ve seen, and there’s a wonderful balance between the plan the way it should work and the way it finally does work. Herbert Lom and Michael Caine are both excellent in the film, delivering wry comic work, fully engaged by the whole cat and mouse of being thief and target. I have to reserve special praise for McLaine, though. When I was a kid, she was already starring in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, so that’s the image of her I had first. It’s hard to reconcile the wicked funny f**k bunny of THE APARTMENT and this film with her New Age grandmotherly self, but there’s no denying her appeal in this film. She’s such a confident comedian, so knowing, so in command of herself physically, that she energizes the first 20 minutes of the film without saying a single word.
It’s funny what can distract you from a picture. For me, the one thing that jarred me (pun fully intended) in GAMBIT was the score, written by the wonderful Maurice Jarre. The main theme of the film is quoted directly from his own LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It’s a major quote, and it would pull me out of the movie for a moment each and every time it happened. That’s a minor quibble, though, not even a real complaint. The day I complain about watching a great film while listening to Maurice Jarre music, you should remind me to quit doing this. This film is a long con from the moment it starts, and not just for the characters. Sargent and Neames work with confidence and poise to hoodwink the audience, and when we all realized exactly how we were being played, the audience went nuts, cheering wildly at the sheer skill. From that moment on, the film had a blank check of goodwill from me. Thankfully, it’s much more than just one clever moment. It keeps working overtime to the very last frame, which should leave you smiling from ear to ear if you have any affection at all for the genre.
Now, twelve years later, I've seen the film five or six times, and I've grown to love it even more. I have spent those twelve years doing everything I can to motivate other people to see it, which was complicated by the fact that it wasn't on video for the longest time. Right now, it's available for purchase exclusively from Amazon, as part of their Universal Vault Series, but it's also available streaming through Netflix Instant.