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Gambit Roulettes in live-action movies.


  • The Adjustment Bureau has human agents of Fate who are running one of these with every person on the planet. They are aided by magic fedoras which allow Portal travel and a magic people tracker which shows their people's planned path. The Chairman (who is apparently God) says the eventual goal is not to need them anymore.
  • Angels & Demons has a villain fake the involvement of an old secret society called the Illuminati to take the blame for his actions of trying to destroy the Vatican. Except, the clues he was using were obscure and there was no certainty anyone would have otherwise found the clues and discovered the murdered cardinals had Tom Hank's character not been there. Even with his involvement, they barely discover some of them. In addition, there's no public discussion of the Illuminati, and The Plan is for the entire city to be vaporized in a short time frame. So, there was a very high chance that the entire city would have been destroyed with none of the outside world being the wiser, which might have also complicated the villain's plans. As it was, with Tom Hank's help they discover the "bomb" mere minutes before it's supposed to go of, and then the villain decides to change his mind and take the device safely out of harm's way at the last second. Just think how the movie would have unfolded if Tom Hanks had not been invited to help or if he had been a slight bit slower at solving the clues. In fact, a random event of electricity being shut off almost kills him.
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  • Arlington Road: To quote the opening paragraph of Roger Ebert's review: "Later, thinking back through the film, we realize it's not just the ending that's cuckoo. Given the logic of the ending, the entire film has to be rethought; this is one of those movies where the characters only seem to be living their own lives, when in fact they're strapped to the wheels of a labyrinthine hidden plot." It is definitely a Batman ploy taken to Roulette levels to the point of being a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story.
  • The A-Team: Every military action is needlessly dangerous and complex, often relying heavily on the enemy doing some very exact and unlikely actions.
  • Chaos: While the movie is good, it suffers for being completely made up of hundreds of Gambit Roulettes in order to advance the plot. 1: The banker pressing the alarm, thus sending in the police. 2: Conners being made the negotiator, thus shutting down the power. 3: Conners shutting down the power, thus giving the virus free game. 4: Conners failing to stop SWAT from entering the bank, thus making the mooks escaping the bank. 5: The mooks not being caught on camera while escaping the bank with the hostages (granted, this one was admitted failed in movie). 6: The female cop's phone going off, thus making the cops entering that building. 7: The fact that the whole idea of letting Conners pretend to be dead was based on the idea that out of 2 guys, 1 body is found, and just because it has Conners badge on it makes the cops take for granted that it's Conners body, while not bothering to look for the MISSING SECOND BODY!)
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  • Children of Men contains a pretty major spin of the wheel in the bandit attack: it turns out that Theo is travelling with a terrorist group that's decided on a bit of regime change. Julian's death during the attack was part of the plan to bring Luke to the leadership of The Fishes. But that means the plan involved a perfect pistol shot, taken from the back of a speeding motorcycle, into a very small car containing not only the pregnant girl who could be the last hope of humanity, but the would-be leader as well. In a realistic film like this it's hard to imagine a plan so dangerous even being considered.
  • The Christmas Chronicles: Two kids have to help Santa Claus in Saving Christmas after they cause him to crash his sled and lose most of his things and powers. In the ending, it's revealed he never lost his powers that could have solved all his problems from the start. Apparently, he pretended in order to give the kids an adventure that would bring them closer and help one of them believe in himself. To do that, he must have either left important things insanely to chance, or planned a lot of the specific details in advance. Since he's shown to be The Omniscient in a lot of ways, there's no telling he didn't plan basically everything down to the kids sneaking into his sled in the first place.
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  • Cry_Wolf: There was no way to ensure that Mr.Walker would not find the gun in his drawer, that he would see or hear neither Dodger's fake murder (especially given her screams) nor Owen entering the room, that Owen would be prepared or even manage to kill him (it's possible though that Dodger was really trying to frame Mr. Walker for the townie girl's murder, not necessarily to kill him).
  • The Dark Knight: The aggregate actions of the Joker: for an agent of chaos with a stated disdain for Chessmasters, he effortlessly pulls together seemingly random and improbable events into a single overall scheme. A good example is his "race for two hostages scheme", which counts on 1. Joker being captured and taking to a holding cell both just close enough yet far enough from the spot of his scheme, 2. Batman being present at the jail to interrogate him, 3. Batman being in love with Rachel Dawes even though the only proof Joker has of this is seeing Batman jump out a window to save her (which he would have done for any person Joker flung out of there), 4. there still being enough time to reach either of the hostages when Joker doesn't have a clock in his cell or on his person, 5. no police being out on patrol close enough to the spots where the hostages are, 6. Batman getting to his hostage first before the police, even though he's using a new vehicle Joker has never seen until this night. And that's just one scheme out of a dozen of his.
  • Die Hard 2: The terrorist plot depends on a conveniently-timed severe (but not too severe!) snow storm on the day their leader was being transported. Perhaps there was a deleted scene featuring a weather machine.
  • Down with Love. The plot turns out to be one of these by Renee Zellwegger's Doris Day-esque heroine to get Ewan McGregor's Rock Hudson-esque guy to fall in love with her, as Zellwegger explains in one really long, fast-spoken monologue. It works perfectly, but subverted in that the side-effects of her campaign lead her to (temporarily) lose interest in him.
  • Eagle Eye: The person running the tables at first appears to be damn near omniscient and prescient - creepily anticipating everything except Jerry being alive - to the point of (as just the most "damn"-worthy example) calling the cell phones of every single person on a train within seconds of needing to do so. It becomes slightly more believable when it's revealed "she's" a government supercomputer... until the Fridge Logic sets in.
  • Face/Off: To break out of Erehwon Prison, Sean Archer's plan of escape involves removing the metallic shoes from his feet which inhibit his movement. The only way to do that is to be strapped to an electric chair that fries his brain and gives him shock therapy. He gets into a fight with a guy that Castor Troy screwed over in the past and also needed therapy in the chair at just the moment before he was, and have his brain fried but also he needed to barely survive it. Archer (as Castor) would then be strapped himself and have his boots removed, but would quickly have to convince the guy who hates his guts to help him and save him from the guards before they can electrocute him. It doesn't take many words to convince him to die to save Archer.
  • Flightplan: An elaborate plot required Jodie Foster's character to take the correct flight on the right day and time, to bring a coffin of her dead husband with her, sit in the correct seat and for no other passenger to notice her daughter. She would then have to fall asleep during the flight and her daughter would need to be kidnapped during the flight while she slept, without anyone noticing the daughter was ever there. Then she would need to act crazy so that no one would believe her story, and go crazy enough to want to see her dead husband, be savvy enough to pull off a successful Indy Ploy to get into the cargo bay, and be forgetful enough to leave his coffin unlocked.
  • Fracture (2007): The plot requires that the correct cop be called into the scene of a murder, recognize the victim as the woman he was having an affair with, and then attack her husband. Furthermore, it required that he not kill her husband, but be sufficiently angry to not notice that the husband was switching their guns. In spite of his otherwise brilliant planning, the husband failed to even realize that shooting someone, being found innocent of attempted murder, and then having life support withdrawn, constitutes a count of murder separate from the initial crime.
  • The Game. Although it's implied at the end that they had backup plans here and there, and a detailed psych profile on Nicholas to figure out exactly how he'd react, it's hard to believe that CRS could control every detail so completely.
  • The Gingerdead Man: Millard Findlemeyer commits murder and is executed. His mother, a witch, decides to bring him back to life in the form of a gingerbread man. Her plan requires the bakers to use a box of seasoning that was mysteriously left at the back door, injure themselves, bleed into the dough, use the blood-soaked dough instead of throwing it away, and accidentally cause a power surge while the dough is in the oven.
  • Gunslinger: Erica Paige buys up all the cheap land around town believing that she'll make a fortune when a railroad is built through town. It all goes to hell when the railroad is built along a different route.
  • Home Alone: The traps in some of the movies require knowing what the thieves will do precisely, far beyond "try to steal X object." This is particularly bad since the maker of the traps is a child. Of course, if it was more realistic, the villains would only have to get caught in one or two of the many traps to be either killed or crippled horribly.
    • Although, looking at Kevin's floorplan, it's clear that he put booby traps throughout the house, so that wherever the burglars struck, they would find a trap.
  • House on Haunted Hill (1959): The antagonists' plans are not only extremely complicated and based on a large amount of chance, they also require an improbable level of footwork on the part of the antagonists, almost requiring them to be in two places at once.
  • The Illusionist: Eisenheim's plan to fake his love's death and blame it on the Crown Prince of Austria has too many elements to have been coordinated and pulled off as masterfully as it was.
  • Inside Man: The robbers' scheme hinges on ensuring that no one dies while simultaneously keeping the cops thinking they're deadly dangerous. While the movie presents this as Xanatos Speed Chess, it falls apart when you consider that it relies on the cops not making any mistakes like accidentally shooting a hostage.
  • Lucky Number Slevin, in which the main character suffers a case of mistaken identity, and is brought in by two separate mob bosses to get revenge upon each other. Long story short, it turns out that he and his mentor - the assassin the mob bosses both hired to take out the MC once he'd done what they wanted - planned the whole thing in order to get revenge on both of them for the murder of his parents.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Avengers, Loki's plan to get himself captured to set up a plot to destroy the helicarrier via antagonizing the Hulk would stray into this territory even if Loki had previously clashed with the Avengers and knew their general members and quirks. However, since he has previously never met any of the members prior to being captured his plan seems absolutely insane. That would require a thralled Hawkeye giving Loki very specific information about people who aren't even associated with S.H.I.E.L.D. at the start of the movie, information which he may or may not know, all of this happening off-screennote , and Loki taking the time to set up a gambit to stop people he considers inferior anyway. Had the Hulk not been there, had they not been in the helicarrier, etc., his whole plan would have resulted in him being captured for nothing.
    • Helmut Zemo's master plan in Captain America: Civil War verges on a thin line between Xanatos Speed Chess and this.
      • His goal is very simple: obtain proof the Winter Soldier killed Tony Stark's parents by any means possible, show Tony, cause internal strife and watch the Avengers fall apart as Steve and Tony fight. This simplicity allows him to both compensate when the plan doesn't turn out perfectly (like when the HYDRA agent refuses to give him information prompting him to go alternate route via Bucky) and take advantage of existing circumstances (he had nothing to do with the Sokovia Accords and just used it for distraction).
      • Despite this, actual implementation of the plan comes dangerously close to Gambit Roulette. Fortunately for Zemo, Sokovia Accords, an event that divided Avengers in two camps and greatly boosted tensions between Tony and Steve just had to happen at the time when he was going to cause that tension himself. Also, it happened right at the moment when Tony's mental stability had been deteriorated by a combination of guilt over his actions in Avengers: Age of Ultron, breakup with Pepper, tensions with Secretary Ross, and the near-fatal injury and paralysis of his best friend Jim Rhodes. If either of these factors were not present, consequences of revealing the information to Tony would be far less severe and if neither happened, Tony and Steve could just talk it through. Instead, pretty much all unrelated events in the movie make Zemo's task far easier to accomplish. Additionally, Zemo's plans would've most likely failed had Captain America not escaped with Bucky, or had he not been apprehended by Iron Man's forces during the airport fight. Furthermore, numerous factors led to Iron Man, Captain America and Winter Soldier being the only heroes present in Siberia to confront Zemo. The success of Zemo's plan would've most certainly been compromised if more heroes other than those three had made it to the final act.
  • Matchstick Men: The last con relied on some very egregious coincidences. Namely, that Roy would put up with seeing a psychiatrist, and that he wouldn't just find some other way to get his pills; that Roy would still trust Dr. Klein after finding out that he lied about the pills; that Roy would trust Angela enough to give her access to his account, even though he had only just met her; and that Roy would never contact his ex-wife and wouldn't find out that she didn't have a daughter.
  • Mystery Men: Subverted in an exchange between Captain Amazing and Casanova Frankenstein that culminates with "I only knew that you'd know that I knew. Did you know that?" The genuine Evil Plan is very simple: turn on a mad science machine that was already set up and available before he devised the plan.
  • North by Northwest has Roger being abducted and nearly killed by someone pretending to be Townsend, whom Roger later learns is a UN diplomat. After narrowly surviving the attempt on his life, Roger visits the UN General Assembly building to confront Townsend. Townsend turns out to be someone he has never seen before, and shortly after Roger arrives, is killed by one of the men who tried to kill Roger. Roger was manipulated into meeting Townsend so that Townsend's enemies could kill him in a way that would look like Roger was responsible. But how did they know Roger would seek Townsend out? And if they needed Roger as a patsy, why try to kill him? And how did they know the attempt to kill Roger would fail?
  • Now You See Me: The Horsemen's scheme is planned down to the last detail all so that Dylan can get revenge on the people he holds responsible for his father's death.
    • One specific example is the "quarterback" hypnosis in the Horsemen's second show, which involved predicting the exact word to come out of Dylan's mouth (though "freeze" is a reasonable thing to expect a cop to shout at a fleeing suspect). Further justified and subverted when you realize Dylan was the one who planned the stunt in the first place.
    • Perhaps the most blatant example of this in action is the chase seen in the middle of the move. When one of the Horsemen have to escape the police by themselves they have to count on Dylan's partner not turning and seeing the Horseman hiding over the shelves, that only two guards would be left at the entrance of the apartment who could be easily dispatched with, that he wouldn't crash his car before getting to the bridge, that their wouldn't be a police blockade at the end of the bridge that would see the car attached to the front of the truck or check drivers out, that a helicopter, police car, or even civilian going in the opposite direction or looking in their car mirrors wouldn't see them make the switch with the cars, and that another cop wouldn't rush into the crashed car and see the body wasn't the Horseman's. And on top of all that there had to be virtually no traffic on the bridge at that exact time, something they couldn't have predicted. In fact throughout the whole movie they rely on the police being a) incompetent and b) not having access to helicopters.
    • Near the end they count on the police being so incompetent that Morgan Freeman's character is successfully framed for a crime he obviously didn't commit (who packs stolen money in their car like that? On top of that the Horsemen are known for being "tricky" and Freeman was known for getting on their bad side so obviously he was being framed). Even with Dylan's help, it's really not justified.
  • The Ocean's Eleven series.
    • The plans of the main characters match this trope quite well, requiring everything to interlock absolutely perfectly. However, they have to adjust the plans several times due to unexpected variables.
    • In particular, the heist in Ocean's Twelve relies on a Gambit Roulette within a Gambit Roulette, with a third Gambit Roulette thrown in for good measure. By the end of the film, the plan becomes so circuitous that it crosses some kind of gambit event horizon.
  • In the original Ocean's 11, all of their gambits pay off but a small oversight results in them losing the money in the end.
  • Oldboy (2003): The plot has a Big Bad whose elaborate plan can completely break the Willing Suspension of Disbelief at his scheme to get revenge on his high school nemesis. Specifically, the big bad's plot depends on the protagonist having a relationship with a specific woman, who turns out to be his own daughter, whom he hasn't seen since she was a baby. This is handwaved by having the villain explain that he used post-hypnotic suggestions on both of them to ensure they would fall in love. This gets worse in its 2013 American remake, in which the hypnosis aspect is completely left out.
  • Olsen-banden: Subverted in the Danish films (and the Norwegian and Swedish remakes thereof) by having Egon Olsen's elaborate schemes go off almost without a hitch, only to have the gang deprived of their rewards later by some amazing coincidence. Egon (the only competent member of the gang) is caught by the police and goes to prison (sometimes even for something he's actually done). Though, sometimes he's playing Gambit Speed Chess while the Roulette is spinning.
  • Push: Nick's plan to save Kira relied on knowing exactly what lie Agent Carver would tell her. That's just the most obvious sneak in the plan; the whole thing was so convoluted that psychics couldn't tell what was going on. Ultimately, the entire movie was planned, predicted, and orchestrated by Cassie's mother. There's a reason why she's known as the best Watcher in the world.
  • Sahara (2005): Used and then lampshaded. The main characters find a 19th century ship in the middle of a desert which contains an old cannon and some exploding shells. They rig this up as an anti-aircraft gun and then try to get it to work, time the fuse properly (it's a timed fuse) hoping that the enemy helicopter gunship which is trying to kill them will be in range and they can fire the cannon at the appropriate time, get the cannonball into the enemy helicopter before the shell explodes but not take so long the helicopter can take evasive action, and blow it up. This of course works perfectly, and the characters look at each other and simultaneously say, "There's no way that should have worked."
  • Saw: Jigsaw, the main villain, is the textbook writer on this. Not only does he manage to contrive up elaborate traps (some of which can easily be thwarted in the end), but he also can somehow pick out the best people to inflict these on, and figure out exactly how they're going to reach to further his aims. And he does this all while being bedridden. And later, dead, and still able to accurately predict everything that will happen in the world several years after his death, down to the tiniest of details. In a flashback in Saw V, he states that "If you're good at anticipating the human mind, it leaves nothing to chance."
  • Se7en:
    • John Doe's master plan hinges on Mills deciding to just shoot him, though he did take measures to increase the likelihood of it happening. John Doe explained in his phone call to Mills that he was "stepping up" his agenda. His final two kills (Wrath and Envy) were originally planned for somebody else, but Mills provided a better opportunity. It is impressive that he was able to pull it together in time.
    • Another Roulette would be orchestrating how the cops find Victor, the "Sloth" victim exactly one year to the day after John first captured him. He had to kill the attorney (Greed), plant Victor's fingerprints behind the painting, assume the cops would get the clue to the lawyer's wife, know that the cops would ask the wife about it at the right moment, and know exactly how long it would take them to match the prints with Victor in order to bust into the apartment at the right moment.
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009): Lord Blackwood's plan to kill Ambassador Standish would have failed if it hadn't been raining that day (since it required that Standish be doused in oil without realizing it), or if Standish had chosen not to kill Blackwood that day, or not to do so with the booby-trapped gun.
  • The Skulls: The last car chase sees the heroes Luke and Will being chased at high speed along a train track before it finally comes to a stop with them crashing full speed into a dirt berm at the end of the tracks and the bad guy about the shoot Luke. But a split second before he pulls the trigger, he is shot (at long range) by the cop who then tells them that it was his plan all along to have this happen, thus showing that even the good guys can have convoluted plans. At any time during the car chase, Luke and Will could have crashed and been killed. Or the cop could have missed his long range shot with a pistol, allowing the bad guy to shoot Luke. But I guess that was part of the plan as well.
  • Skyfall: Silva's escape/assassination plan hinges on, among other things, his being captured and held at MI-6 on the day of M's hearing, Q springing his computer trap at exactly the right time, perfect choreography and timing between numerous teams of henchmen in the London Underground during rush hour, and Bond chasing him into one particular room at exactly the time that a train is passing overhead (and not deciding to Just Shoot Him).
  • Speed: The main villain of the film puts a bomb on a bus to take revenge on a police officer who ruined his last scheme and demand a ransom of $3.7 million. The rules are that once the bus reaches 50 mph, the bomb is armed, and if it drops below 50, then the bomb goes off. The villain then tells the police officer all about this. The problem is, the film makes it quite clear that had the cop had been just a second sooner, he would have caught the bus before arming the bomb, showing that there may have been time to do so. In this sense, the villain relied on the chance that the protagonist wouldn't make it to the bus in time, else the bomb would never arm and there would be nobody to hold hostage.
  • Speed Racer: While the movie itself wouldn't necessarily be one, the backstory of the film-version might qualify. Apparently a bunch of industries have been controlling the winner of every important race for decades. Apparently all the sponsors agreed on who won ahead of time, were always able to get the drivers to cooperate with them, and (most insanely) no designated "winner" ever crashed, leaving the race open. Let's not even go into the idea that sponsoring a winning car could double your stock price instantly.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Admiral Pike accuses Kirk of making reckless command decisions and relying on blind luck to ensure his missions go according to plan without harming his crew.
  • Star Wars: In Return of the Jedi: Emperor Palpatine reveals that so far, the rebels' success, including their capture of an Imperial shuttle, has occurred because he allowed them to build up their hopes:
    Palpatine: Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design. Your friends, up there on the sanctuary moon, are walking into a trap, as is your Rebel fleet. It was *I* who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator. It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion of my best troops awaits them. Oh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.
  • Swordfish: The main villain, whatever his real name may have been. More identities, schemes and deceptions than you can shake a stick at; neither the characters or the viewer are informed much regarding his real plans.
  • Total Recall (1990): For their scheme to work, Mars Administrator Cohaagen and Hauser have to eventually get Quaid back to Mars (but he blows his memory cap early so he ends up becoming a Cowboy Cop), Quaid has to get in contact with the Mars Resistance without the Resistance suspecting a trap, and Quaid has to do it without getting himself killed, all so that they can find Resistance Leader Kuato. When this actually happens, Cohaagen explains how he and his men went through a great deal of effort to help Quaid along the way. He admits that the possibility was still nearly unbelievable, noting the myriad ways in which the plan actually did go wrong. This is one of the many reasons behind the All Just a Dream interpretation of the movie.
  • The Tourist: Alexander Pearce's plan. He tells his wife to board a particular train at a particular time and randomly select a passenger of his height and build, whom she will then pretend is him in disguise. It turns out that the guy she picked really is him in disguise. But, wait, go back and read that again: she's to pick a guy at random. Well, what if she had picked a different guy? It's not like there's only one man of his height and build on that train. In fact, she almost does pick someone else, but it turns out he's traveling with someone. Could have gotten a bit sticky if he'd been alone, no?
  • The Wicker Man
    • In the 1973 original, Lord Summerisle explained at the end of the film they needed a person from the mainland who wouldn't stop looking for the girl, and assume he has command over the islanders, and who also would resist even the most blatant of sexual advances. Aside from knowing all that about Howie personally (he mentions "painstaking research"), or that Howie would be sent to the island to investigate, he was able to jerk Howie around, assumingly with the cooperation of the entire island. There was certainly no way of knowing Howie was going to dress up as The Fool by stealing someone else's costume. The only really direct way he kept Howie in line was sabotaging his plane so he couldn't leave.
    • In the 2006 remake, every ten years or so, a woman is sent from her isolated island community for the mainland, to find a man, make him fall in love with her, get impregnated, and then take off back to the island. Then, ten years later, they will contact the man, betting on the off-chance that he's still in love with her, and ask him to come to the island in order to search for her missing child (that she only later informs him is his own child). Why do these women participate in this rather odd sequence of events? Well, it turns out the honey-bees aren't doing their job properly, and they need a human sacrifice with a blood connection to offer up to the fertility gods.
  • Wicker Park: One character, Alex, is single-handedly manipulating the three other main characters in a desperate attempt to be with Matthew. She convinces Lisa that Matthew is cheating on her and leads Matthew to believe that Lisa has abandoned him. Also, she dates Luke for the purpose of pumping him for information on Matthew and Lisa... among other things. Although it appears that most of her plans are made up on the spot, her schemes do seem to generally work masterfully in her favor. That is, until Matthew discovers enough information to force her to admit everything she did.
  • Wild Things: Suzie plots to kill the dirty cop who killed her ex-boyfriend and get rich in the process. The full plot is too complicated to explain, but involves relying on everyone being willing to betray everyone else, before then discovering that they've been betrayed themselves. As if that's not enough, in the final scene, the defense lawyer from the rape trial, chosen from the phonebook, implies that he was somehow in on it all along. Most of it does rely on people behaving in character-predictable ways rather than sheer insane chance, especially as the plan meant that anything that looked coincidental was usually a result of then-unrevealed plotters working the other side and delivering the right evidence exactly on cue. It's still ludicrously complicated.
  • Zardoz: Arthur Frayn's plan as Summed up by Oancitizen:
    "So his plan was... herd a bunch of working class Brits into, breeding someone genetically able to think on the Eternals level; lead him to a library. Hope, that he taught himself how to read properly. Hope, that he came across the one specific book that inspired the whole Zardoz shtick. Hope, that he would stow-away on the Zardoz head and shoot him. Then hope, that the head would crash back inside the vortex. Hope, that the other Eternals didn't kill him immediately, and teach them all that they know; in the hopes that he would figure out how to destroy the tabernacle and therefore all the Eternals. In other words, the exact kind of plan you expect for a man who draws on his goatee."


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