James Jay Edwards reviews The Gentlemen by Guy Ritchie, a film that returns to his roots in the action crime caper genre.
British filmmaker Guy Ritchie may have broken through with crime thrillers like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but he fell in with the Hollywood elite with his later films like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the live-action remake of Disney’s Aladdin. Well, old-school independent cinema fans can rejoice. With The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie is back to making Guy Ritchie movies.
The Gentlemen is about a man named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey from Dallas Buyers Club) who, along with his supportive wife Rosalind (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery) and loyal right-hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy), has built the biggest marijuana empire in England. He wants to retire and cooks up a deal to sell his entire manufacturing and distribution operation to an American businessman named Matthew (The Big Short’s Jeremy Strong).
(theatrical release poster, STXFilms, Miramax)
However, a thug heir to a heroin distribution ring who goes by the name Dry Eye (A Simple Favor’s Henry Golding) is also interested in purchasing Mickey’s empire, and Mickey and his crew find themselves in the middle of an unwanted strong-arm bidding war. So, they call in a favor from a boxing coach (Colin Farrell from The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and his students to provide some added muscle for the negotiations. To complicate matters, a hack tabloid journalist named Fletcher (Hugh Grant from Paddington 2) whose snooping has uncovered the whole plot is using his information to try and blackmail Ray behind Mickey’s back. Heavy emphasis on the “try.”
The Gentlemen is classic Guy Ritchie, packed with double- and triple-crosses, and full of surprising twists and turns that literally keep the audience on its toes until the very last frame. Sure, as the film goes on, the twists get more and more unlikely until, by the end, it seems as if Ritchie is simply making it up as he goes along, but that’s part of the fun. Just when you think The Gentlemen has used up all of its shocks, there’s another. And then another. And it’s all wildly entertaining.
The trademarked Guy Ritchie black humor is back as well, as is the distinct whip-smart visual style that has been sorely missing from the director’s last few movies. Much of the plot is told from the point of view of Grant’s Fletcher, who becomes the narrator as he lays out the story to Hunnam’s Ray like he’s pitching a movie script (he even presents one that he has written to Ray). So, the narration is one-sided and somewhat unreliable, but that just serves up some of the surprises that Ritchie keeps hiding up his sleeve for the third act. The Gentlemen winds up as more than just, as Quentin Tarantino would say, “a bunch of gangsters doing gangster (stuff).” But not much more.
After having a taste of Disney and big Hollywood (and the paychecks that come with it), it’s unclear as to whether Guy Ritchie will continue to do quirky gangster flicks or not. But it’s reassuring to film fans to know that he can still make movies like The Gentlemen. You know, Guy Ritchie movies.