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By Daniel Lammin
31st May 2015

Reviled by critics, ignored by audiences, a catastrophe at the box office - everything suggests that ‘Mortdecai’, a literary adaptation spearheaded by star Johnny Depp, is amongst the worst films ever made, a blight on the face of cinema, a film akin to the worst of tortures. Well, as is want to happen, this is a bit of an exaggeration. There’s nothing more appetising that jumping aboard the bandwagon and trashing a train wreck, but most of the time these "train wrecks" tend to just be missteps blown out of proportion. That isn’t to say that ‘Mortdecai’ is a under appreciated classic - not by any stretch of the imagination. But the absolute disaster it’s been made out to be? Not by a long shot.

Adapted from the book by Kyril Bonfiglioli, the film follows the escapades of Charlie Mordecai (Depp), an aristocratic art dealer and occasional thief, who becomes embroiled in an international art conspiracy when a lost Goya painting becomes a bargaining chip for a group of terrorists. Encouraged by old school chum from MI5 Martland (Ewan McGregor) who promises to settle his tax debts, and with his trusty heavy Jock (Paul Bettany) at his side, Mortdecai jumps around the globe in search of the painting. The problem is, Mortdecai is more concerned about things with his wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), who has taken serious issue with his new moustache.


Now I’m not going to come out and say that this is a hidden classic grossly misunderstood, but ‘Mortedcai’ is nowhere near as bad as it’s been made out to be. Sure, it isn’t a great film, but there’s certainly enough to suggest it’s at least a good one. Moving at a ridiculous pace, the film is silly and irreverent from beginning to end, built for no other reason than to amuse and to offer a good time. Director David Koepp and screenwriter Eric Aronson riff on the screwball heist comedies of the 60s and 70s, filling the film with flashy cars, exotic locations and as many aristocrats as possible. The cinematography is bright and bubbly, the editing is fast and flashy and the performances eat as much scenery as they can get their hands on. The story isn’t bad either, full of ridiculous twists and turns, and packed with as many gags as the film can hold and then some. This is a film built for no other reason than to have some fun.

So what went wrong? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but something definitely catches the film up and makes it fall flat on its face. What kills it in the end are just a lot of lacklustre decisions. While there are lots of clever comic moments, they are cancelled out by a succession of indulgent ones, and because of the sheer amount of gags packed in, the film starts to feel bloated and fall apart. It also suffers from Depp’s performance. The rest of the cast feel very comfortable with the style and conceit of the film, but much like the direction, Depp goes for a more is more approach, which just ends up being too much. There’s a degree of indulgence about ‘Mortdecai’, and if that had been under control we would have a much better film on our hands. The fact that many moments in it do work so well only make the moments it doesn’t all the more frustrating. There’s actually a much better film hidden in there somewhere, it’s just a pity the team behind the film never found it.

Something definitely catches the film up and makes it fall flat on its face.

So is ‘Mortdecai’ a great film? No. Is it a terrible film? No. In the end, it’s an inconsequential film that contributes nothing, but it’s also a film whose intention is to be inconsequential. Maybe the style is just too obscure for a 2015 audience. Maybe they just didn’t know when enough was enough. Maybe I’m crazy and being far too forgiving, but compared to so many other films, I don’t think this one deserves to be relegated to the Worst Films of All Time pile. I would watch this again over a 'Transformers' film or ‘American Sniper’ or most of the recent films by Woody Allen. It’s dumb and ill-conceived and indulgent, but it’s also a bit of fun, and when all the film boils down to is a love story between a man and his moustache, what else do you really want?

‘Mortdecai’ might fail on many levels in the filmmaking department, but this Blu-ray certainly doesn’t. The 1080p 2.40:1 transfer dazzles with explosive colour, and shines like a new Rolls Royce. Detail throughout is also crystal clear, showing off the preposterous production design. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is a downgrade from the 7.1 track on the U.S. disc, but it’s still a noisy affair, filling the speakers with the busy sonic world of the film without sacrificing the dialogue. Why we got a downgraded track I have no idea, but it still does the job.

Bonus material is kept to a minimum, but I doubt anyone is going to be particularly disappointed. ‘Stolen Moments’ (16:34) is a pretty standard behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews and footage from the set. Depp features prominently, talking about his love for the book and development of the project. The only other feature is ‘The Art of Noise’ (12:25) on the surprisingly wonderful score for the film, which is heavily rooted in the 60s and 70s screwball comedies. The features themselves aren’t overly well-produced, but there’s some interesting stuff in there.

RELEASE DATE: 03/06/2015
RUN TIME: 01h 47m
CAST: Johnny Depp
Ewan McGregor
Olivia Munn
Gwyneth Paltrow
Paul Bettany
Jeff Goldblum
DIRECTOR: David Koepp
WRITER: Eric Aronson
PRODUCERS: Christi Dembrowski
Johnny Depp
Andrew Lazar
Patrick McCormick
Gigi Pritzker
SCORE: Mark Ronson & Geoff Zanelli
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