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Film / Mortdecai

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"I won't beat about the bush, Mortdecai. You are clearly an awful man."

Mortdecai is a 2015 comedy film based on the 1972 cult novel Don't Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli directed by David Koepp and starring Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Goldblum, and Olivia Munn.

British art dealer Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Depp) and his wife Johanna (Paltrow) owe £8 million in back taxes and is on the verge of having his estate repossessed in lieu of payment when he is approached by Scotland Yard Inspector Martland (McGregor) and tasked with locating a stolen painting in exchange for having his debt forgiven. Together with his manservant Jock (Bettany), Charlie travels from London to Moscow to Los Angeles and back to retrieve it with disastrous results at every turn.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: All the major characters with the exception of Johanna are much less fat and middle-aged than they were in the books. Jock, for how injured he gets in the movie, still gets to keep most of his teeth and both of his eyes by the end of the story.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Charlie's literary counterpart is a World War 2 veteran and an expert in unarmed combat, sabotage, and "shooting people." His person in the film, while not harmless, isn't very well-versed in combat.
  • Affably Evil: Father Tichborne from Something Nasty in the Woodshed is a spindly defrocked priest turned Satanist who is physically deformed from the neck down, but he's tirelessly pleasant, a delight to talk to, respects "the Other Side" of the holy war, and even crafted a canvas corporal featuring the uncanny lifelike image of a human being to act as a substitute for ritual sacrifice so he nor anyone else who uses it, has to kill a person to invoke demonic powers. The "evil" aspect of the trope only comes into play when he enacts the Black Mass that Mortdecai, George, and Sam commissioned him to perform in an effort to intimidate "the Devil of Jersey."
  • As the Good Book Says...: Even though he's not a practicing Christian, Mortdecai enjoys quoting Bible verses from memory in the novels because they're well-written and oftentimes philosophically insightful.
  • Ascended Extra: Fang has a bit role as a dentist cum drug dealer in the novels, but is a powerful crime boss and tertiary antagonist in the film.
  • Auction of Evil: In the final act of the film, Mortdecai and Johanna arrange for the painting with the bank account number to be sold at an auction disguised as another painting (although they are planning to let the buyer walk away with another decoy).
  • Author Avatar: Charlie Mortdecai, as his opening voiceover has him stating that he is an art dealer, accomplished fencer, and fair shot with most weapons just like Kyril Bonfiglioli's book jacket author biography states.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Selling the Duchess of Wellington. As a lost masterpiece, it is undoubtedly priceless, but as a cultural artifact, it would be difficult to pawn off as going through official channels would get you arrested by the Spanish government and those rich and covetous enough on the black market would be likelier to just kill you to have it. Goering's Swiss bank account adds an extra wrinkle due to how such a preposterous fortune would make one a target of immense suspicion and possibly even murderous intent. The movie's third act involve the Mortdecais trying to Take a Third Option as they desperately need the money they could get from the item's worth, but are incapable of defending themselves from the baggage that comes with it.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Parodied. At a murder crime scene early in the film, Charlie tries to pull off a Sherlock Scan to piece together what happened - getting every single deduction he makes wrong and forcing Martland to correct him.
  • Battle Butler: Jock, whom Charlie says is his manservant and thug in his voiceover after the opening scene in Hong Kong when Fang tries to welch on his Ming vase deal with Charlie.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Rather than let Sam kill him out of vengeance or allow himself to be captured and punished for his crimes, George opts to let himself drown.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Charlie is able to sell the painting at the auction and keep himself and Johanna out of bankruptcy. However, after the sales tax of the auction and other fees have been paid, there is little left of the auction money once their massive back taxes have been paid. However, they still have the painting with the bank account number - and each other.
    • Something Nasty in the Woodshed ends a little more sweetly than Don't Point that Thing at Me and much more bitterly than After You with the Pistol. Charlie has had one of his ears mutilated by the rapist, Johanna wound up as one of the victims, his songbird canary died of old age, and the Davenants committed suicide. The fact that the criminal was "caught" and "punished" is of little comfort to the Mortdecais.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Don't Point that Thing at Me ends with a cornered and alone Charlie on his way to exit his mountain hideout to confront Martland one last time.
  • Black Widow: Subverted with Johanna with Charlie being pleasantly shocked that it was Kramp's son, rather than his Femme Fatale wife who ultimately did him in.
  • Camp Straight: Charlie is very much a fop, but claims to only have eyes for his wife.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The insulting painted caricature of Winston Churchill hanging in Charlie's den is initially used as a visual shorthand for just how serious a government agent Martland is, but later comes into play during the finale as the Mortdecais' decoy of choice.
  • The Chew Toy: Jock, who gets shot twice by Charlie himself,, attacked by a dog, gets badly frozen by stowing away on a plane and nearly gets his finger chopped off by Fang's Mooks. All of it is played for laughs.
  • Composite Character: The film's version of Martland combines elements with his literary counterpart and Colonel Blucher from the books although a man bearing the latter's name is mentioned at the auction house where the climax of the film takes place.
  • Creator's Culture Carryover: The flashback scene showing Charlie, Johanna, and Alister at university clearly shows them in an American-style college dormitory of a type not really present in the UK, despite the fact that all three characters are British and therefore are (presumably) being educated at a UK institution.
  • Decomposite Character: The film is based on several of the Charlie Mortdecai novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, with the plot being sort of a composite of the first novel, Don't Point that Thing at Me as well as the unfinished final novel The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery. In the first book, Mortdecai meets Johanna Krampf, the nymphomaniac wife of a wealthy American businessman, and is married to her in later installments. Johanna is characterized as pretending to be a Brainless Beauty, and beneath the surface having ruthless and cunning traits. Here, Mortdecai is married to Johanna, who is cunning, but a rather different character, belonging to British high society. There is also a separate character, Georgina Krampf, the nymphomaniac daughter of a wealthy American businessman, who gets Book!Johanna's Brainless Beauty facade and hidden untrustworthiness. Georgina also has elements of Krampf's son, Milton III, from the books. Particularly how she is also party to her father's murder.
  • Dirty Commies: Charlie earns the attention and suspicion of the American embassy during Don't Point that Thing at Me (which is set during the Cold War) after Colonel Blucher sees that he was part of a socialist academic club during his university days.
  • Dirty Old Man: When Johanna visits Sir Graham in her search for the painting, he keeps inviting her to come with him to the restroom to see "it". Ultimately subverted, as he was trying to show her where he kept the real painting.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sam and Violet Davenant during the closing pages of Something Nasty in the Woodshed.
  • Eagleland: Zigzagged throughout the first book where Mortdecai meets many people of both types, sometimes in the same city or even the same room. While disguised as a member of the Vatican during the second, he accidentally gives a bundle of money to an American guest at a casino who later has it returned to him along with 95% of the winnings he earned with it and asks him to donate it to the poor through the Church. Charlie considers this American "the only honest man" he's ever met.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Charlie might get Jock shot, partially frozen, and violently sick, but he draws the line at allowing one of his fingers to be cut off by the triads. Partially subverted at the end as, while he willingly hands the codes to Goering's Swiss bank account and the enormous Nazi fortune within to the authorities instead of keeping the money for himself, this in turn gives him a clear conscience to hold on to the painting instead of giving it back to Spain.
    • Jock, while a known felon and thug who would kill at Charlie's command (or for his own amusement) refuses to assassinate the Queen of England during the first act of After You with the Pistol.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Mortdecai is MI 5's go-to consultant for art-related crimes, but they've got all of his own felonies on file to hold over his head to bully him into service.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Robin Mortdecai as "Robin" was considered a girl's name during the time he was born.
  • Gentleman Thief: As a fence and fledgling high-class conman, Charlie is technically a thief and his pedigree encourages him to try and act like a gentleman, but he only barely manages to qualify for this trope.
  • Greed: The cornerstone of the entire plot is that Bronwen used her firsthand exposure to the lost Francisco de Goya painting to create a replica which she intended to sell on the black market while claiming it was the real thing. Naturally, this attracted the attention of those that were far likelier to steal it from her than purchase it, resulting in her death. The worth of the painting itself creates a web of alliances, betrayals, thefts, and double dealings amongst the cast who either want to profit off of the masterpiece or to simply keep it for themselves.
  • Groin Attack: The Russians' favorite method of torture. There is a car battery involved...
    "Open your balls."
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Despite officially being Mortdecai's assistant, Jock is responsible for almost all the heavy lifting and at least half the brainwork of what they do.
  • I Fight for the Strongest Side!: The International Chinese Waiters Union from After You with the Pistol is well-aware that the secret Women's Domination Society has their sights set on global conquest, their nation included, but help them anyway, figuring that if they're going to regardless, they might as well try to ride on their victory and profit somehow.
  • Implacable Man: The powder-blue Buick which pursues Mortdecai and his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost across America. To his dismay, he discovers that there's more than one and both cars have different benefactors.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: In a flashback, Charlie goes to a hunting event and, holding his shotgun the wrong way, accidentally shoots Jock several feet away.
  • Karmic Death: Charlie believes that his upcoming demise at the end of Don't Point that Thing at Me makes the entire affair "quite a moral tale" as he feels it is just and mostly deserved.
  • Kavorka Man: Jock, who is constantly having sex with women despite being a total lout.
  • MacGuffin: The stolen Goya painting.
  • Made of Iron: Jock. Over the course of the film, he is beaten, hit by a car, frozen while hiding on an airplane and almost loses a finger, but nothing keeps him down for long.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Black Mass that Mortdecai and his friends set up in Something Nasty in the Woodshed was meant to strike down the satanic rapist plaguing the island or at the very least dissuade him from continuing his rampage under threat of a gruesome infernal death. When he wasn't immediately struck down after the ritual was completed, George intensified his attacks, badly wounding Charlie and even raping Johanna. However, he soon after dies in a painful and exacerbated drowning which could either be bad luck or the curse taking effect. Muddying up the evidence further is how Father Tichborne seemed to demonstrate observable supernatural phenomena to the protagonists earlier on which could have been real or simply seemed to be so via his powers of persuasion.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Gwyneth Paltrow and Johnny Depp's names should be above and below their respective actors in the poster.
  • Pet the Dog: Charlie's one true act of genuine kindness occurs at the end of Something Nasty in the Woodshed where he offers Sam lodging at his house for the night because he knows exactly what he's going to do in reaction to hearing about his wife's suicide. It is tragically rebuffed, and all Mortdecai can do is stare upon Sam's house from across the way and wait for him to kill himself. Which he does a few minutes later.
  • Psycho for Hire: Charlie's manservant, Jock, is insanely aggressive to anyone who isn't either of his bosses, bordering on Ax-Crazy.
  • Punny Name: Jock's unspoken last name is Strapp.
  • Really Gets Around: Georgina Krampf is, by all accounts, a rampant nymphomaniac. However, since she is hardly seen doing anything sexual, this is largely an Informed Attribute.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: Sir Graham, who seems to be having a bad case of dementia and forgets things every ten seconds or so.
  • Snicket Warning Label: The narration of the books is peppered with Charlie prefacing sections of career "villainy" with warnings about how law-abiding readers or those leafing through the story "below their station" might find them distasteful.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Martland who is killed in the opening chapter of After You with the Pistol.
  • Super Window Jump: Charlie escapes from the Russians by jumping out of their window and onto Jock's motorcycle.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Martland turns into one as the story progresses. At the start, he serves as Charlie's ally, partly because of his attraction to Johanna, but later he gets more and more in the way of her and Charlie's own goals, such as by burning the (fake) painting when he finds it and intervening in the auction near the end.
  • Title Drop: Subverted. Johanna says "Don't point that thing at me!" when Charlie tries to kiss her with his mustache, which is the title of the book that the film is based on.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Once he tricks Mortdecai into delivering him what he thinks is the Goya, Krampf's first instinct is to publicly announce that he's in possession of it and that he'll be throwing a lavish party in celebration of his acquisition, never mind that this puts him squarely in the crosshairs of fanatics who would kill to own the painting and those who believe the legend that the codes to a Nazi fortune are written on the back of it and would likewise kill to learn them.
  • Unfortunate Names: Charlie (not Charles) and Robin Mortdecai believe their first names to have been made plebeian by their mother in a puckishly subversive way to insult her husband.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Charlie spends the first half of the movie as one, unwittingly smuggling the stolen painting to Krampf in his Rolls Royce after Krampf bribes his mechanic, Spinoza, into hiding it there without Charlie's knowledge.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Charlie knows art and he knows his wines, but in regards to everything else, he's an aristocratic buffoon.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Losing half of his moustache near the end of the film causes Strago to become more reckless and aggressive in his attempts to steal the painting.
  • Women Are Wiser: While Charlie is bumbling, arrogant and often moronic, Johanna is by far more mature and intelligent.
  • Your Mom: In a terribly polite and flowery manner, Charlie insinuates that Dmitri's mother was a prostitute and that his father was gay.