Maclaine has Trouble with Another Harry
To be honest I have never been one who is crazy about Michael Caine, there is no doubt that he starred in some great movies but sometimes I felt they were overrated. Fortunately "Gambit" is not one of them as not only does it feature an entertaining performance from Caine but an equally entertaining one from an adorable Shirley MacLaine and I say adorable because she is at her cutest in this movie. But more importantly "Gambit" features a clever story with fun twists and plenty of subtle smile moments.
In a Chinese back street club Harry Dean (Michael Caine - Alfie) and his friend observe Nicole (Shirley MacLaine - Can-Can) an attractive dancer who bears an uncanny likeness to the late wife of reclusive millionaire Shahbandar (Herbert Lom - Spartacus). Harry's plan is to use Nicole to distract the millionaire in order to not only case his place but then rob it. It seems such a foolproof plan so what could go wrong?
The trouble with trying to review "Gambit" is that you can only really discuss the first 20 minutes as that is when the first twist arrives and to give anything away spoils the movie. As such I could say that Harry cleverly uses Nicole as a distraction in order to cleverly case Shahbandar's joint before robbing it but that is only the setup. What follows well lets just say in a highly amusing way not only do things not go to plan but they don't seem what they are. It is the amusing intelligence of the writing which not only keeps you watching but also on your toes as the story evolves into this playful and romantic crime caper which twists and turns.
It is not just the writing which is good about "Gambit" as director Ronald Neame not only handles it perfectly with a jaunty pacing but he adds just the right amount of style to stop it from feeling over the top. But it is the performances as well which make "Gambit" still so much fun with Michael Caine delivering shall we say a typical but very effective performance as a crafty cockney crook whilst Herbert Lom is equally good as the crafty Shahbandar. But it is Shirley MacLaine who makes the movie with not just her cuteness and charming smile but also... well I can't say because it would spoil one of the movies many entertaining twists.
What this all boils down to is that "Gambit" is another one of those 60's crime capers which have stood the test of time exceptionally well thanks to the clever writing and in this case the performances of Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine.