D: David Koepp / 107m
Cast: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, Jonny Pasvolsky, Michael Culkin, Ulrich Thomsen, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Byrne, Paul Whitehouse
When an art restorer is killed and the painting she was working on stolen, Inspector Alistair Martland (McGregor) is put in charge of the investigation. He brings on board crooked art dealer Charlie Mortdecai (Depp) to help recover the painting which is a Goya. Mortdecai has potentially ruinous debts, and though agreeing to help, he plans to sell the painting when he finds it. While he begins the search, his wife Johanna (Paltrow) decides to look for it herself. She visits a duke (Byrne) who tells her it was stolen by a friend of his during the war, and that on the back of the painting are codes that will lead to a hidden stash of Nazi gold.
With criminal Emil Strago (Pasvolsky) also after the painting to help fund his terrorist activities, and the involvement of Russian mobster Romanov (Thomsen), Mortdecai, aided by his faithful manservant Jock Strapp (Bettany), eventually discovers the location of the painting and attempts to steal it back from the man who has it, American dealer Milton Krampf (Goldblum). Strago, in cahoots with Cramp’s daughter Georgina (Munn), manages to get the painting himself, but when he tries to find the codes, he inadvertently destroys it. But Johanna reveals that the painting was a fake, and that she knows the location of the real one.
Recent movies starring Johnny Depp have proved to be mostly disappointing, and Mortdecai continues that streak, lacking cohesion, credible characters, and worst of all, sufficient laughs to offset the movie’s other faults, such as Depp’s own performance. For anyone with even a passing knowledge of British comedy from the Fifties and Sixties, Mortdecai will be the movie where Depp does his best Terry-Thomas impersonation, even down to the gap in his upper teeth. It’s hard to say if Depp is being affectionate or paying tribute, but either way his overly mannered performance is so distracting it ultimately becomes off-putting (not to mention annoying).
Thanks to Eric Aronson’s trying-too-hard screenplay (adapted from the novel by Kyril Bonfiglioli), the movie struggles on almost every level except for cinematography and costume design, and makes a hash of its absurdist situations, refusing to acknowledge that less is more and that caper movies should be fun and not a trial to sit through. Koepp is a better writer than he is a director, and he plays around with the pace of the movie throughout, making some stretches play out inordinately while letting his cast direct themselves. The twists and turns of the plot are too predictable for anyone to care about, and the action scenes too pedestrian. With running gags the order of the day, the humour soon becomes tiresome as well. There’s a decent movie to be made from Bonfiglioli’s Mortdecai novels, but sadly, this isn’t it.
Rating: 3/10 – not as clever or funny as its makers will have intended, Mortdecai is yet another movie where no one realised early on just how many mistakes were being made; lacking subtlety, wit or charm, the movie is like a smörgåsbord of bad ideas all pulled together in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong way.