Released: 1st January
Seen: 2nd January
For several years now, Guy Ritchie has been trying to spread out from the English crime drama/comedy films that he made his name on. Most recently he tried to take some of the elements from his old crime drama films and put them in the criminally underrated King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He then made the just flat out criminally bad Aladdin movie and maybe those films shook him a little since people were starting to catch onto his bag of tricks and calling them out. Whatever happened with those two films, Guy Ritchie seemed to go back to what he does best… an English crime drama/comedy with a large eclectic cast of characters who drop obscenities like they were forms of punctuation. Thank goodness because this is probably the kind of film Guy Ritchie was born to make because he does it so well.
The Gentlemen revolves around the story of Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), a powerful figure who runs one of the most profitable marijuana empires in the world. Mickey is getting a little tired of the life he is forced to lead due to his business and wants to sell the business to another Cannabis Kingpin named Mathew (Jeremy Strong). A slight hitch in his plan happens when millennial wannabe crime lord Dry Eye (Henry Golding) also makes an offer to buy out the business, and coincidentally a bunch of ruffians break in one of the compounds where the mary jane is kept. It’s a tale of blackmail, bribery, scams and a whole lot of violence between very polite British people. Basically, it’s a Guy Ritchie film… but one of his good ones that is well written and fun.
The entire film is told by the absolute best element of the film, a slimy private eye called Fletcher (Hugh Grant, who steals the entire film). Fletcher is the only person with all the information about who is preparing to screw over which other criminal and he’s eagerly telling all of it to one of Mickey’s associates, Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) who spends the entire movie being absolutely over Fletcher. The scenes between the two of them are easily the highlights of the film, with Fletcher going between telling his story, embellishing details and flirting with Raymond (It’s Charlie Hunnam, I do not blame a single person alive for flirting with that man) in scenes that are hilariously comedic and often just violate the fourth wall of the cinema to the point where I’m fairly confident that fourth wall could get a restraining order. This is the kind of film where an action scene will happen and then they cut back to Fletcher and Raymond talking about how the events weren’t as dramatic as we just saw before rewinding the film and doing it properly. It’s laying on the stylism as thick as it can, including Guy’s favourite slow motion shots, but here those choices actually work because we’re in a Guy Ritchie film where they fit better.
From the start to the end, we go on a long series of exposing who was backstabbing who and with every new revelation we get to learn a little bit more about this fascinating bag of characters that give this film life. It’s not one that relies heavily on action scenes, though there are a few decent ones, but more on the interactions between characters. Those interactions do often lead to a lot of cursing, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like it when people use the C-word then this might not be your cup of tea but if you can handle a large amount of rampant cursing then you’ll have fun. It’s helped that the people delivering the curse word laden lines are some of the best performers around. While Hugh Grant is giddily stealing the film, everyone else is holding their own. Notable second best would be Henry Golding who has grown from roles that require him to be the most handsome charming man you’ve ever met who could easily talk you into doing sex with him and is now just playing one of the most vile characters with glorious relish. Same with Colin Farrell who gets to really show off another one of his wild quirky characters and does it with almost impish glee.
The film isn’t exactly perfect, it does feature a few moments that go too far even for this kind of film. There are some lines we don’t need to cross and this film revels in crossing them. Sometimes they actually end up working, some jokes about taboo topics work because you can tell it’s in good natured fun and they’re not mean spirited… then there’s a pointless attempted rape that doesn’t need to be in the film at all and is basically there to make one of the already irredeemable assholes just a little bit less redeemable so the audience won’t mind if they do bad things to him.
In general though, The Gentlemen is a solid couple of hours worth of thrilling fun led by some fantastic performances and dialogue that will have you laughing at the most shocking things. Its Guy Ritchie playing his hit tunes and playing them about as well as one could hope he would play them after a few years trying other things. There’s a few bum notes here and there but on the whole it’s a really good Guy Ritchie film, the kind he used to make back when the phrase “A Guy Ritchie Film” didn’t make everyone raise an eyebrow in trepidation. Welcome back sir, we’ve missed you.