From writer/director Guy Ritchie, The Gentlemen stars Matthew McConaughey as Michael “Mickey” Pearson, an American who has built up a highly profitable marijuana empire in the UK but who now has plans to retire, making plans to sell it for a significantly large amount of money to a fellow American businessman (Jeremy Strong), but with his empire now up for grabs, dangerous events are soon set in motion that involve Mickey’s loyal right hand man (Charlie Hunnam), his tough, intuitive wife (Michelle Dockery), a relentless, aspiring kingpin (Henry Golding), a “Coach” (Colin Farrell) whose group of neighbourhood teenagers inadvertently steal a hefty amount of Mickey’s product, and a particularly slimy private investigator (Hugh Grant) who has his mind set on blackmail as well as a multi million euro payday.
After helming a number of mediocre projects, dabbling in some new genres with the troublesome King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the unnecessary Aladdin remake, Guy Ritchie has now apparently returned to his comfort zone with The Gentlemen: a quintessentially Ritchie-esque film that channels the likes of his earlier works such as Lock, Stock, Snatch and RocknRolla – a crime flick that’s full of geezers, guns, tall tales, and a very healthy amount of swearing – and the end result is a satisfying enough popcorn flick as it sees Ritchie return to what he does best, giving us a colourful escapade that keeps us interested with its unexpected twists and turns as well as adding some modern touches to his recognisable style of filmmaking.
The story of The Gentlemen probably won’t go down in history as the most memorable or the most exciting but saying that, it manages to remain intriguing throughout the runtime and although it makes use of a vast array of characters and gives us a fair amount of twists and turns, it remains perfectly coherent and the audience will be able to keep track of what’s going on. It also tells the story in a somewhat non-linear fashion as the main plot is initially told to us through Hugh Grant’s character and this technique gives the film an interesting spin, the audience being asked to partly piece the story together themselves as some seemingly inconsequential plot elements are introduced and then returned to later on, and as Grant’s character is something of an unreliable narrator, certain scenes are revealed to have been imagined and telling the story through his perspective allows for some entertaining moments that shake up the traditional narrative formula. And although this is a distinctly Ritchie-esque crime tale, he also makes sure to give it plenty of modern touches which make the film all the more interesting – touches that include a plot thread revolving around YouTube and a very well thought out and humorous look at how modern technology, internet services and social media groups could make it all but impossible to set up outdoor marijuana fields!
Ritchie’s direction works well, definitely a return to form following Legend of the Sword and Aladdin, as he makes sure that the sweary crime and violence is neatly juxtaposed to the more comedic moments, and he manages to tell his story in that non-linear fashion without making it too complicated for the viewer, he keeps the film moving at a reasonable pace, he includes a fair dose of metatextuality (this is a world where his other films clearly exist, as does a beer brand called “Gritchie”), and his use of some particular onscreen text leads to some of the bigger laughs of the film.
Looking at the cast, Matthew McConaughey fits in surprisingly well as our perpetuallly tweed-clad “protagonist” Mickey – a cool and charismatic customer who always appears as though he’s in control but when things get heated, he’s more than capable of unleashing the violence and all in all, McConaughey is adept at both sides of his character, both the confident boss/businessman and the relentless tough guy. Supporting him, Charlie Hunnam is very good as Mickey’s trusted “consigliere” Ray – a man of few words who prefers to stay silent and deal with problems rationally but who can be vicious and violent when the situation requires – Henry Golding looks like he’s having fun with a very different kind of role but in all honesty, he doesn’t have the necessary toughness or grit to pull off the role of the antagonistic rival (plus, his accent’s a little off), Michelle Dockery elevates the simple “wife role” by being unwaveringly tough and no-nonsense in the face of danger, as well as being “the power behind the throne” as she provides Mickey with valuable advice, Colin Farrell provides much of the humour as Coach and his jokes almost always hit the mark, and Hugh Grant, clearly at a stage in his career when he can just not have a care in the world and to take on some “less serious” roles, is the scene stealer of the film as he plays the slimy, parasitic, opportunistic, bottom feeding and gloriously camp investigator with great humour and infectious joy.
And that’s about it – Ritchie’s new film follows in the footsteps of his more “tried and tested” projects such as Lock, Stock while updating the formula for modern times; technically, it doesn’t do anything wrong and its probably a cut above some of his other films, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t particularly shine and probably won’t be remembered when compared with the other great films that will come out this year.
But at this exact point in time, The Gentlemen does have the honour of currently being the best film of the 2020s!