IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 107 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Lord Charlie Mortdecai is an eccentric and unscrupulous art dealer who often finds himself up to his moustache in trouble and only often escapes death with the help of his manservant Jock. A Goya painting is stolen and a woman working on it murdered, so Inspector Martland, put on the case, asks Mortdecai to help. Estranged from his wife Johanna, who hates his moustache, and hugely in debt, Mortdecai agrees to recover the painting, but complicating matters are a terrorist and a millionaire who are also after the painting, the latter’s daughter having the hots for Mortdecai, and Martland having been in love with Johannna since their college days….
A major flop with talk of its star now being box office poison, Mortdecai isn’t anywhere near as bad as one might expect, and times really are hard if something like Taken 3 is topping the box office while Mortdecai, which at least is decently directed, shot and edited, totally tanks. The attempt was to make a picture much like those movies from the 60’s where glamorous film stars jet around the world looking for art treasures. The result doesn’t quite work, partly because Mortdecai, while undoubtedly funny at times, mostly lacks the light touch required, and feels required to add some sexual humour [the 12A certificate the film has received in the UK is very questionable] and violence to a type of film which should be family entertainment. And, sad to say, Depp’s scenery-chewing performance, kind of a cross between his Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows, his Jack Sparrow and Terry-Thomas, becomes irritating and partially unbalances the film, a big shame for an actor whom I feel, despite his recent decline in popularity, usually gets it right even if he’s playing eccentrics….which is admittedly most of the time these days.
Still, Mortdecai is quite good fun and rarely dull. Some of the comedy gets a bit tiresome through repetition, such as the jokes at the expense of Mortdecai’s moustache which his wife finds so repulsive that it makes her throw up, but some of the frenetic farce does work well, and there are some inventive touches, like the CG-assisted transitions between cities. An early chase involving characters being constantly knocked over is good old-fashioned slapstick at its best and, as with Premium Rush, director David Koepp can certainly handle action well without feeling he has to resort to migraine-causing editing and shakycam. Acting-wise Paul Bettany probably comes off best, showing good comic timing as Mortdecai’s trusty manservant Jock, who will take any injury for his master while sleeping with every lass in sight, and the score by Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli reasonably ‘modernises’ the Henry Mancini style and sound. Mortdecai is not as good as it should have been, but is by no means an artistic disaster and is actually a cut above the usual tedious rubbish that passes for American movie comedy these days. Though it certainly won’t happen now, I wouldn’t have objected to the four other books by Kyril Bonfiglioli featuring the character being adapted for the screen.