Mortdecai review

Tache and burn.

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Tache and burn.

Johnny Depp’s post-Pirates career comedown continues at a clip with this painfully unfunny caper movie. While at least he gives more than his soporific performance in Transcendence, his turn as moustachioed, boozy art trafficker Charlie Mortdecai feels like he’s blatantly ripping off Paul Whitehouse’s rakish Fast Show character, the 13th Duke of Wybourne. There’s even a cameo by Whitehouse, as a cross-eyed garage mechanic, in what seems like a nod of approval to Depp’s thievery.

Yet while Whitehouse’s character worked well in short bursts, watching Depp bumble around for almost two hours is a dispiriting experience. As is seeing the A-list support cast fritter away their talents on this misjudged misfire, helmed by David Koepp, whose directorial credits (including Depp’s Secret Window) have never matched his screenwriting career (Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible).

With Mortdecai cash-strapped, owing £8 million in taxes, the plot bounces between London, Oxford, Moscow and Los Angeles, as he goes on the hunt for a lost Goya painting that fell into the hands of the Nazis. Aiding him are his beautiful wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), loyal “manservant and thug” Jock (Paul Bettany), and Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor), a one-time peer of Mortdecai’s who still holds a candle for Johanna.

There are small appearances by Ulrich Thomsen and Jeff Goldblum, as interested parties in the painting, which is thought to contain on the reverse the code to a Swiss bank account belonging to Hermann Göring. But largely this is Depp’s film to flounder in; to be fair, he’s fully committed to Mortdecai, but the script, overloaded with anodyne action, just isn’t there to support him.

Particularly tiresome is the running gag about his newly grown ’tache, which everyone hates (“It looks like you have a vagina on your face,” says Johanna). Presumably, the idea was to bring back something akin to the Pink Panther movies. Fair enough, but this is more like the Steve Martin ones than the Peter Sellers originals.

More info

Theatrical release23 January 2015
DirectorDavid Koepp
Starring"Johnny Depp","Gwyneth Paltrow","Ewan McGregor","Paul Bettany","Jeff Goldblum"
Available platformsMovie
Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.