If it feels like Channing Tatum has been trying to bring fan-favourite X-Men character Gambit to the screen for forever, that’s because it’s true. Even before Tatum had been officially tapped star in and produce a Gambit solo film in 2014, he had actually been cast to portray the Ragin’ Cajun in 2006’s X-Men 3: The Last Stand before the character was written out of that film in script rewrites. Scheduling conflicts, multiple director departures, franchise plan changes, and Fox eventually being bought over by Disney has left a Gambit film in development hell and probably means that Tatum will never get to play the card-throwing mutant superhero he’s so passionate about. Disney will eventually reboot the character and the rest of the X-Men as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but we have no idea when that will happen other than it won’t be in the next five years. So what’s a fan to do until then? Make your own Gambit movie, of course!
That’s exactly what filmmaker Jensen Noen did, recently unveiling the 20-minute long fan-film Gambit: Play for Keeps. The short film stars Canadian model/actor Nick Bateman as Remy LeBeau aka Gambit and sees the mutant thief dragged into a high-stakes poker game hosted by a baddie played by none other than veteran Eric Roberts. And I’ll be damned, but this is way better than it has any right to be! I won’t spoil anything by talking too much so just hit play on the clip below and enjoy.
I have no idea what budget Noen and co were working with for Gambit: Play for Keeps, but even with the restrictions on location and costuming, this is way more polished than I expected. There’s some dodgy acting a few places here (most notably from Anna Butkevych as Magik), some very bad shooting from the henchmen with automatic rifles, and a couple of editing fumbles, but overall this is at least on par with many high profile TV series in terms of filmmaking levels. Hell, some aspects look like a proper feature film. The speed-ramping cinematography alone would make Zack Snyder smile, with some slick choreography – and killer use of Gambit’s kinetic energy-charging powers – thrown into the mix as well. Not to mention a damn nice music score from composer Evan Evans.
And while I wished that he went deeper with the Cajun accent and mannerisms (the 90s X-Men cartoon will forever be my reference point), Bateman actually does a decent job as a more toned-down Gambit. There are even some neat throwbacks to his classic costume in his outfit here (the fingered/fingerless gloves, the metal breastplate, etc.) which I appreciate.
I highly doubt this fan-film will follow the Deadpool trajectory, where after years of development hell a “leaked” concept video led to Fox finally greenlighting the Ryan Reynolds-led movie, but it does give us an idea of just how cool Gambit could be on the big screen if done well. You know, not like in that travesty X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
What do you guys think of Gambit: Play for Keeps? Want to see more of what Noen, Bateman, and co can cook up?
Last Updated: July 2, 2020