Gambit – AKA Remy Etienne LeBeau – is a Marvel Comics character from the X-Men franchise. But you already knew that. He’s commonly recognized by his red and black eyes, and his brown trench coat over a black/fuchsia costume. The popular character is also linked to a heartbreaking string of failed film launches.
The X-Men franchise has seen its own hardships on the big screen – bouncing between box office smashes to critical/financial disappointments. In what’s typically considered the 2nd wave of movies – the X-Men reestablished their footing with First Class.
Fox quickly followed up the effort by producing what became their biggest X-Men movie (outside of Deadpool) in Days of Future Past – which essentially gave the franchise a soft reboot. By that, I mean they mucked up the timeline more than it already was. What that effort really did was free up the X-Men ‘universe’ to be expanded in any direction writers and producers wanted to go.
So, of course, Fox skipped all of that and produced Deadpool. Ryan Reynold’s passion project was crass, bold, hilarious and brave. With almost ten years worth of development, it had no reason not to be. Deadpool’s success opened doors for writers to get creative. It resulted in the green lighting of three films – Logan, The New Mutants, and Gambit.
While the first Deadpool movie turned out to be a romantic comedy – the next three would explore other genres. Logan became a critically acclaimed western-drama. The cursed New Mutants project aimed to be a horror flick and Gambit was setting up for a ‘sexy’ heist film treatment. Luckily, for the first two, they got made – even if New Mutants is currently stuck in limbo (ha, I made a funny).
Gambit, on the other hand, despite originally been given a ridiculous original budget of $115 million (some report that number to be greater), having Channing Tatum lined-up to star/produce and Rupert Wyatt (Planet of the Apes) to direct – it took up residence in development hell. There was one more thing it had going for them. Word around Hollywood is that it had a kick-ass script written by Joshua Zetumer.
I’m here to tell you: I read it. It did.
When a friend offered it to me – I was a bit skeptical, because, you know, it didn’t get made. Fam’ – I read the 126-page treatment in one sitting. It was sexy, intriguing, funny, exciting and smart. I now fully understand why even after losing several directors and having its budget chopped, why it hung around for so long.
I suppose you want a breakdown? I’ll do my best without getting too much into the weeds. First- off, I see where producing this could be an issue, especially now. In its current form, it utilizes at least two characters from other films and heavily references the happenings of other X-Men films.
Gambit is very much an origin story – though I struggle to call it a “hero’s journey.” He’s the protagonist, for sure, but if you judge him by Webster’s definition of “hero”, Gambit is hardly that. The movie opens up with Gambit on a courtroom witness stand. Much like we saw in Deadpool, the story is told through Gambit’s point of view. So that we’re on the same page – the happenings in Gambit stretch from 1955 to around 1984.
Gambit’s testimony begins with him at 6-years old. He crosses paths with Luke LeBeau –a thief and crew runner in New Orleans – impressed with him, Luke takes a liking to the nameless, orphan, homeless boy and brings him into his family. From there, the story jumped 9-years forward putting Remy at about 15.
It’s at this age he first meets Bella Donna Boudreaux, the daughter of the city’s godmother-type Maryanne Boudreaux. The attraction between them is obvious to everyone, especially their disapproving parents – who already have longstanding bad blood between them.
After the third of four 10-year jumps in the story, Gambit’s now a young man 25. He and Bella are both deeply in love with each other. Naturally, that’s kept a secret from her family – but so is the fact that they are both mutants. Attempting to build a bridge between the two factions, Gambit suggests a joint operation – A bank heist. Recognizing the opportunity for profit and possibly a consolidation of power by way of a union – both sides accept.
Of course, everything goes sideways – in no small part thanks to Gambit’s actions – Luke is left dead, shot in the back, and Bella’s brother Julian is killed by Gambit. The fallout costs Gambit his relationship with Bella, his family, and his home as he’s blamed for the disaster and cast out.
The last time skip of the film brings us to 1983 – Gambit’s around 35 years old. He’s doing quite well for himself in Paris hustling jobs and being the life of parties. He’s approached by Jacquelin, a mutant meta-morph, for a job back in the states on behalf of her employer.
After learning that it is in New Orleans, Gambit turns it down flat, but quickly changes his mind when he’s told its robbing the Boudreaux of goods they stole themselves. He’s also shown a surveillance video of the botched bank job that clearly implicates Maryanne as the person that shot Luke.
Gambit reluctantly returns to NOLA and is forced to reconcile with what’s left of his crew/family – Maryanne had systematically wiped out the LeBeau clan by way of mercenaries. After meeting Nathaniel Essex – a creepy, charismatic, business man-type – and learning he is Jacob’s benefactor, Gambit and Henri assemble a crew to complete the job.
The last act of the script is mostly dominated by the execution of an intricate, yet dazzling plan to rip-off an underworld auction filled with villains from other X-Men movies. The enterprise consists of individually timed instructions and a lot sleight of hand. Obviously, everything doesn’t go according to plan and Gambit has to improvise – but it does work out.
Before the movies’ end, Gambit learns not just what Essex was up to – the retrieval of a stolen truck with a live person inside of it – but the truth of his own origins. Gambit is the biological son of Essex. Intrigued by his powers, Essex presents Gambit with the opportunity to join him – or else he’ll set him up to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Taking the latter option, the film finally catches up to Gambit in the courtroom. After another string of convoluted, pre-arranged maneuvers that included a cameo from Mystique – Gambit isn’t just freed, but also shuts down Essex’s enterprises.
With the board cleared – Bella Donna officially forms the Assassins Guild, while Gambit and Henri roll their new crew into their family. That’s how the movie ends – give or take. Throughout it, there are references to both Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. Heck, the latter played a large part in the movie as it was flooded due to Magneto’s actions. Much of NOLA is flooded.
Other than the aforementioned Mystique cameo – Dani Moonstar, and Jamie Madrox each played larger roles as part of Gambit’s crew. Jacob Gavin is a classic character from Gambit’s lore and was a welcome addition. Other appearances include Rictor and Fifolet as members of the Boudreaux mercenaries. It also included a couple of original characters in Mask and the Vanisher Twins (even though there are three of them).
The chances of this movie getting made now are effectively nil. It depends way too much on utilizing the previously established Fox X-Men films. It’s obvious that they had designs on rolling this film into future X-Men films as well as possibly getting a sequel.
Let’s look at the bright side. Fox bought this script – which means Disney now owns it. Though it most likely won’t be realized in its current state, there’s a good chance that some of these aspects will get adapted if Disney produces a Gambit series for their Disney Plus service.
It’s a huge blow to me, personally, that this movie didn’t get realized. Before I read the script, I wondered why producers were still trying to get this made, despite all the setbacks. But I get it, now. It really was that good of a story. The passion that Tatum had wasn’t misplaced. Zetumer’s script deserved to be shot. It’s a shame that it wasn’t.