dir David Koepp
scr Eric Aronson
prd Johnny Depp, Andrew Lazar, Christi Dembrowski, Patrick McCormick, Gigi Pritzker
with Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, Jeff Goldblum, Jonny Pasvolsky, Ulrich Thomsen, Alec Utgoff, Rob de Groot, Michael Byrne, Michael Culkin, Paul Whitehouse
release US/UK 23.Jan.15
15/UK Lionsgate 1h46
On the case: Bettany and Depp

paltrow mcgregor minn
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Mortdecai Occasional snappy playfulness in the dialog seems to be the only remnant of Kyril Bonfiglioli's cult novel Don't Point That Thing at Me. Because the rest of this film is eerily lifeless, straining for laughs that never come while indulging in appallingly choreographed comedy-style action. Clearly a lot of work went into this film (it looks amazing), but it's a head-scratching mess.

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Depp) is an art expert who lives in an English manor house with his glamorous wife Joanna (Paltrow). But they're perilously in debt. As he begins to sell off his prized collection, old friend MI5 Inspector Martland (McGregor) asks for help to find a missing Goya painting, which leads Charles and his trusty manservant Jock (Bettany) from London to Moscow and Los Angeles. Repulsed by her husband's new moustache, Joanna runs her own investigation, leading to a face-off with an art collector (Goldblum), his nymphomaniac daughter (Munn) and a tenacious killer (Pasvolsky).

This is shot and edited like a hyperactive kiddie adventure, with quick cuts, bad digital animation and constant mugging at the camera. But the dialog and violence are definitely grown-up, packed with double entendres that are played full-tilt (as it were) to make sure the audience misses nothing. So movie quickly wears out its welcome. Thankfully, Depp abandons an excruciatingly goofy accent after the prologue, settling into the same exaggerated Received Pronunciation as Paltrow and McGregor.

Performances are so over-the-top that no one is remotely engaging. Depp has his moments, mainly in his idiotic relationship with Jock, played enthusiastically by a miscast Bettany as a bald, scarred thug with a relentless libido. But as the plot spirals into increased nuttiness, it becomes difficult to care what happens, partly because these people are less-defined than most Saturday-morning cartoon characters, and partly because the film is so awkwardly assembled.

Director Koepp simply refuses to modulate the tone, remaining in super-silly mode throughout. The three big car chases are particularly limp, as is the forced chemistry between characters. So every time there's some genuinely witty dialog, we perk up hoping against hope that maybe things will shift into a more amusing gear. Alas, the plot never gain traction, each twist feels predictable and uninteresting, and in the end the only curiosity is about what happened to the script after the actors signed onto the project.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo, violence 20.Jan.15

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