The Gentlemen

Ritchie geezer: Matthew McConaughey relishing his role in The Gentlemen...
Verdict: 
6/10 - Guy Ritchie’s return to the gangster genre is hackneyed at times, but its stellar cast shine and provide plenty of entertainment.
Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Written by: 

Guy Ritchie returns to the British gangster capers that made his name with The Gentlemen.

6

It's been two decades since Guy Ritchie made his name with his British gangster capers Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch - films which divided critics but won over fans with their endlessly quotable lines, uncompromising violence and profanity-strewn humour.

After a career that's seen him move into blockbusters - with decidedly mixed results - Ritchie has returned to the genre with his star-studded latest project, The Gentlemen.

The plot of The Gentlemen centres on Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American who moved to the U.K. to study and has since built a marijuana empire by cultivating the drug under the properties of Britain's landed elites.

However, wishing for a quieter life with his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), he is looking to sell his illegal enterprise, a business opportunity that attracts the interest of a rogues' gallery of investors including Jewish-American Matthew Berger (Succession's Jeremy Strong) and Dry Eye (Henry Golding), an eager young Triad gangster.

Events are told through the eyes of Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleazy private investigator working for a newspaper, who has spun his knowledge of Mickey's business operations into a screenplay he is pitching to the American's top lieutenant Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), who he is hoping to blackmail into funding the film.

Further complicating matters is The Coach (Colin Farrell), a raggedy boxing trainer who discovers his students are caught up in the action.

 

After a rollercoaster career that has included box office hits like the Sherlock Holmes films and the recent Aladdin remake, and some spectacular misses, like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the risible RocknRolla, Ritchie is clearly delighted to indulge in the type of film he feels most comfortable.

But the world today is quite different to the one in which fans relished Lock, Stock and Snatch's mockney charms - that was the era of the lads' mags, Groucho club escapades, and the back end of Cool Britannia. 

At times, the dialogue, while having wit, seems like a slightly tamer retread of Ritchie's greatest hits, and 20 years on does seem tired and less in tune with the zeitgeist.

It is unlikely to be quoted in school playgrounds like the bon mots of Brick Top, Bullet-Tooth Tony or Turkish were in the early 2000s.

Elevating matters though is Grant - who plays against type as a vaguely camp cockney tabloid sleaze - channelling a bit of Michael Caine into an excellently performed comic role.

At times Ritchie does make nods to the fact the stories and characters aren't exactly men of 2019 - if they ever really existed at all - but some of the jokes, like one about an Asian character having a name that sounds like a swear word, seems hackneyed rather than pleasingly transgressive.

The film also largely abandons what begins as an interesting commentary on the English class system - and how an outsider like Mickey can open doors Brits cannot, for action in its second half.

Thankfully, though Ritchie spares us some of his more irritating directorial habits, such as needless slo-mos, and other than the film's central conceit, that Fletcher may be an unreliable narrator, there's not some of the pretentious sub-Tarantino filmmaking behaviours that's present in some of his worst efforts.

That largely allows the stellar cast, who look to be having a great time, to shine and let their hair down in playful roles.

Those who find Ritchie's mockney schtick intensely irritating will probably want to give this one a miss, as it is no masterpiece, but for fans of his early films, it's more than enjoyable enough to keep you entertained.

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