What do you get when you mix British gangsters, snappy quick dialogue, and a good dose of dark humor? Well, a Guy Ritchie movie of course or The Gentlemen.
The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie returning to the type of movie that had him make such a splash on the scene in 1998. Where Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels felt like a breath of fresh air, this film feels a little more like going back to the well one more time with diminishing, yet still entertaining results.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Released: January 24, 2020
The Gentlemen is the story of Micky Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American transplant with a talent for the business of weed, who is in the market to sell off his business and sail into the sunset. The main person helping him in this endeavor is his loyal, right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam). Ray starts off the film being approached by Fletcher, a private investigator who is offering to sell Pearson blackmail information regarding his illegal operations. The story then unfolds in a very Guy Ritchie way.
As many Guy Ritchie films do, this film is told just a tad out of order. We start at the end, with Mickey walking into a pub and ordering a beer while an assassin closes in behind him and from there we go back to the beginning. Fletcher then shows up and begins to reveal the information he has gathered to Ray, which he will sell to them and not reveal to anyone else for the low low price of 20 million pounds. Steep but fair? We learn Dry Eye (Henry Golding) attempted to purchase Mickey’s business from him and upon being rebuffed developed somewhat of a chip on his shoulder and sets out to take the business by force. Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), the editor of a tabloid magazine, was also embarrassed by Mickey at a social event and it drove him to hire Fletcher to acquire the aforementioned blackmail in the first place. While all this is going on, Mickey is trying to sell to American billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) while fending off the attacks on his business and maintain long enough to sell.
Are you keeping up so far?
The Gentlemen can be a bit overcrowded at times and that is easily the movie’s biggest flaw. There are characters who come in and out of the story so quickly that you may get whiplash trying to keep up. That isn’t to say that the film is incredibly hard to follow. It just demands you keep up. This is a movie that will surely benefit from rewatches where the more clever mile-a-minute jokes can gain some recognition. It is a fast ride with hardly any time left for character development. There is some here and there but nothing that gives you a deeper understanding of the characters outside of a precious few. The few with a bit more meat to their time are easily the most fun to watch. One wishes that they had spent just a bit more time making you invest in the characters outside of them just being charming or funny.
Mickey is the driving force of much of the plot and McConaughey plays Mickey with his usual, effortless cool demeanor. A lion lies behind those eyes and he shows on more than one occasion how he got to be king of the jungle. Mickey is fiercely loyal to his wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and is attempting to leave the game for both of them. They play off each other well and her character has some moments, but Dockery isn’t given all that much to do in the film.
It could be argued that Ray is indeed the main character of the movie. He has some of the best lines and is involved in most of the action going around. Hunnam plays him well and seems more comfortable with this role than let’s say as American Jaeger pilot Raleigh in Pacific Rim. He brings the bravado he showed in his former team up with Ritchie, King Arthur, and uses it in good measure. The other standout of the cast is Colin Farrell’s Coach. He steals so many of the scenes he is in with his sharp humor that you wish he was in it more. Farrell needs to have more roles like this in the future. People would likely watch a spinoff with just Farrell’s Coach and Hunnam’s Ray in a heartbeat.
The rest of the supporting cast handles themselves just fine. Jeremy Strong does his job as the smarmy American billionaire with all the arrogance that goes along with a character who thinks they have every base covered. Henry Golding is fine as the heavy, Dry Eye, who is a spoiled child not used to being told no or disciplined when it becomes obvious he has gone about everything in the wrong way. Hugh Grant relishes the opportunity to play such a seedy investigator who is conspiring to play every angle he can. He chews up the scenery and does a great job of making you hate his character while finding him hilariously over the top. This character feels like the natural step for Grant with this being a more adult version of the type of character he played in Paddington 2. He also allows him to take jabs at a profession he has been quite critical of.
Overall, this is a welcome return to the genre Ritchie is most comfortable with and like RocknRolla before it, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. It’ll still scratch that itch for fans of his movies. It’s got everything you’d want with tough characters, wiseasses, and over the top villains that can’t help but have “I deserve to get my comeuppance” written on their foreheads. The execution is better in some places than others and it is a bit uneven but overall it is a fun movie that will satisfy most people who walk into the lion’s den.