Director: David Koepp
Cast: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Jeff Goldblum, Paul Bettany
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual References)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://mortdecaithemovie.com
Opening Day: 29 January 2015
Synopsis: Juggling some angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.
An adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s ‘Don’t Point That Thing At Me’, Mortdecai follows the adventures of eccentric art dealer Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) and his manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) after they are approached by Inspector Alistor Martland (Ewan McGregor) to assist in the recovery of a missing Goya painting. Desperate to lift himself out of an impending bankruptcy, Mortdecai agrees, but soon finds himself involved in grimy situations that do not go well with his sheltered, aristocratic lifestyle. To make matters worse, his wife, the light and love of his life, Johanna Mortdecai (Gwyneth Paltrow) despises his moustache, the one thing that all Mortdecai men before him have groomed to perfection. Things seem to be stuck in a downwards spiral and as Mortdecai airs his worries to his loyal manservant, the audience, too, is made to wonder, “...(W)ill it be alright in the end?”
Unfortunately, in response to that question, this reviewer’s answer is a firm and disappointing ‘no’.
Directed by David Koepp, who is better known for his flair in scriptwriting than his directing chops, Mortdecai tries its best to reproduce the hilarity of the novel but fails spectacularly. While many might attribute this failure to Depp, this reviewer feels otherwise. Actors are literally the face of a film. They are the first line of connection the audience has with the film, they are the people that the audience will see in the film and they are, sadly, the sacrificial lambs that bear the brunt of the fault when a film flops. True, Depp has an unconvincing British accent. Yes, he may have sounded like an exaggerated version of Nigel Thornberry from The Wild Thornberries. But ignoring his somewhat off-putting British accent, Depp is believable in his role as the weak and eccentric art dealer who lives in his own little bubble. McGregor, Paltrow and Bettany too, are average but not atrocious in the film.
What then, is the problem? The fault does not lie in the actors, rather, they lie in Koepp’s poor comedic rhythm, the lack of character development, the annoying graphic transitions and the wise-ass comebacks that the characters use in their banters. The bedroom scene where the Mortdecais debate on the “hairy va-jay-jay*” on Charlie Mortdecai’s lips was especially torturous: there was no comedic rhythm to facilitate its hilarity. The use of lewd humour to elicit laughter from the audience was one of the low points in the film. Watching the cartoon-ish graphic transitions used to depict Mortdecai’s travel from country to country was also another point of frustration. The transitions scream of laziness and a lack of effort in coming up with effective transitions between scenes. As for character development, there is little to none in Mortdecai. At the end of the film, Charlie Mortdecai is still a weirdo, Johanna Mortdecai can’t treat her husband’s moustache seriously, Jock can’t control his d*** and Martland is still hopelessly in love with Johanna. To give Koepp the benefit of the doubt, one can attribute this problem to the original novel that the film was based on. But the novel was hilarious and crafted in the most delightful way. There was nothing hilarious or delightful about the film.
It is a shame, really, that Bonfiglioli’s novel received such a terrible translation from Koepp. In fact, did you hear that? Because this reviewer thinks she just heard Bonfiglioli groan from six feet under. And he is clearly groaning, “Don’t associate that thing with me.”
*Note: Of course Paltrow did not say “va-jay-jay”, the British do not say “va-jay-jay”, they say “p&$#@”, “c!%^” or just plain old v*^%$#.
(The whole film is Koepp saying “F*** you, I am a lazy ass”, so please watch if only if you like Depp, McGregor, Paltrow or Bettany)
Review by Leng Mong