Starring Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong. Directed by Guy Ritchie.
The career of Guy Ritchie has been weirdly up-and-down. There’s the movies of his big debut: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, there are the flops: Swept Away (with then-wife Madonna) and Revolver.
Then came his career resurgence, with RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes and its follow-up Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, before the financial failures The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Finally, after a mixed reception to Aladdin, we have Ritchie’s critical and financial return with The Gentlemen.
This film is a typical Guy Ritchie set up; a bunch of rival gangsters in London, all vie for control of the import-export of Marijuana while being tailed by a sleazy reporter. From the off, Ritchie is back well and truly on stylish form.
The film is narrated and corrected by a bickering Charlie Hunnam as cockney enforcer Ray, and Hugh Grant’s potentially gay screenwriting wannabe reporter Fletcher. The back and forth of these two narrating the story like a screenplay allows Ritchie’s fast-paced editing and flair for comedy to flourish.
Unsurprisingly for anybody familiar with Ritchie’s work, The Gentlemen is lacking in subtlety – it’s an obvious in-your-face movie, but as with his not-so-good and actually-very-good gangster flicks, this is more or less what you want out of the film.
Matthew McConaughey gets the measure of his role as pot peddler kingpin Mickey “Michael” Pearson, who is a lot less chill than a pot-peddler McConaughey sounds on paper. Devoted only to his beloved chop-shop owning wife Michelle Dockery as Ros, they are looking to get out the game.
The supporting cast are also on top form – Jeremy Strong is posh-Yank rival Matthew Berger, Eddie Marsan is a nasty newspaper editor who is clearly a jab as Piers Morgan and Colin Farrell is a track-suit wearing fight coach. Grant is the clear standout, as the annoying, but also thoroughly funny Fletcher.
The film goes to show that when on form, Ritchie can craft an overly convoluted crime caper with a flair for dialogue that has made him the Shakespeare of Cockney vulgarity – there are some on-form lines like “his names Phuc, like fuck but with a ph so it’s said Phuc. Calm the Phuc down” as well as “there’s fuckery afoot” and a very fun jab at Croydon. At times, there are maybe one too many double-crosses, and enough uses of the C-word that he may have had a bet to win.
Even so, as you watch the film and the jokes and weird side bits stack up, the film grows on you more and more until you realise that the time spent in the company of these crooks hasn’t been a waste at all. In fact, it’s the opposite, it’s a joy and one you want to take again.
If you’re not on board with the geezer style that Ritchie made his name in – and helped others get their foot in the door with – you might find yourself tired of the Chaucer-style vulgar language, hyper-violence and politically incorrect jokes about Asians and Black people. This is always the case with Ritchie’s work.
If you go looking for a good time and want to have your ears scorched by some juicy swears, then you’ll get your money’s worth, but if you prefer seeing these actors in more, say, quaint or awards-worthy work, you best look elsewhere.