Many will be enticed to see Mortdecai solely because Johnny Depp has the starring role. It is true we have witnessed many a piece of classic character acting from Mr Depp, cementing his cult status by a repertoire of original and engaging characters. Yet despite willingness to give Mortdecai a chance, one cannot ignore the fact that the film just doesn’t cut the mustard. Centring on a foppish and aristocratic art dealer, Mortdecai is adapted from the highly acclaimed novels of Kyril Bonfiglioli and plays on the stereotype of the suave and narcissistic gentleman, creating an abundance of humour from his sociopathic tendencies. Written in the 1970s, it has obvious traces of somewhat outdated humour from films like the Carry On series. The plot sees Mordecai coerced by the MI5 under Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) to return a stolen Goya painting under threat of having his back catalogue of unpunished sins – including eight million pounds in unpaid taxes, brought to light. Director David Koepp shows his versatility from his previous work with Depp in the dark thriller Secret Window. It is true that whilst one cannot find fault in Depp’s performance – every raised eyebrow to delicately bumbled speech is pristine, Mortdecai is simply a very annoying character to spend the best part of two hours with.
Paul Bettany plays the Watson to his Holmes, as a tougher-than-old-boots manservant Jock Strapp (yes, this is the kind of humour you’re in for) with an ability to multi-task not yet seen in a man. He does everything from ironing Mortdecai’s handkerchiefs to shooting his enemies. The acting style is caricatured with Ewan McGregor as the stringent police detective and Gwyneth Paltrow shoehorned as the controlling, uptight wife (one might say she barely needs to act).
As an action comedy, the film fails to deliver on both levels with its archaic humour focused on unfunny moustache banter interspersed with the odd few toilet jokes and messy implausible action.