If you’re a fan of Guy Ritchie classics such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, then you’re in a for a treat. The Gentlemen is a definite return to form for the filmmaker, employing everything that made his earlier British gangster movies such riotous successes. While Ritchie has added to his repertoire with a string of other big Hollywood efforts over the years, it’s clear that this is the genre of film that he is most comfortable with and where he has the most fun.
And it’s not just Richie having fun. Nor me (which I really did). While I won’t call The Gentlement very original due to it sticking to a lot of the Ritchie formula for cinematic gangsterism, it still feels fresh thanks to its incredibly witty dialogue, constant plot twists, intriguing characters and fantastic performances provided by the cast who quite honestly looked like they were having a blast making this movie.
To describe the plot properly would be doing the film a great disservice because much of the magic lies in the manner in which its complexity unfold. Much like Ritchie’s other gangster classics, The Gentlemen is a multi-pronged story that follows many different characters and seemingly disparate narratives that all end up eventually aligning like pieces in a grand puzzle. And it all starts with Matthew McConaughey’s Mickey Pearson, a man who is putting his massive marijuana business up for sale and draws the attention of a whole range of people interested in either purchasing it or trying to compromise it for their advantage. To restore his pride, Mickey needs to resort to extremes to keep his customers happy while still trying to secure a lofty retirement with his wife (Michell Dockery).
The film is partly narrated by Hugh Grant’s Fletcher, who really puts on one of the best performances of his career here as a wily Private Investigator. Some of his narration pokes fun at and exaggerates the events, while other moments help to flesh out the chain of events in which Grant’s retelling of the story fits into the broader narrative. The initial story can be quite confusing at first in the way it is told, but The Gentlemen actually holds up under scrutiny quite well once all the pieces come together. Not every part of the story feels necessary and there are things thrown in purely for a laugh rather than actually bringing anything meaningful to the plot, but they’re so entertaining in their construction that you won’t mind a bit of filler along the way.
While Ritchie’s direction is innovative and deceptively clever, it’s the brilliant editing that keeps all the scenes moving along and provides the glue for the entire saga. That, and the dialogue really is priceless. The film is filled with lines that you are going to want to replay in your head over and over again due to their hilarity and I can see this movie being one of those when it comes out on Blu-Ray and streaming where people quote its numerous one-liners endlessly.
Certain scenes are deliberately ridiculous and many characters are exaggerated to their extremes, but this is all part of the comic appeal of The Gentlemen. If you are someone who gets offended by stereotyped characters, then you need to remember this is a Guy Ritchie movie and par for the course. It’s supposed to be stereotyped and exaggerated, serving the purpose of entertaining you rather than challenging you. And in that regard, Ritchie and co deliver beautifully.
Considering that the film can be quite violent and crude, this comedic angle helps because it ensures that at no point in time do you ever take The Gentlemen seriously. I will make mention though that there was one scene that was completely off-colour and even though the script papers over it with lots of humour, you can’t help but feel that maybe Ritchie was reaching too far in trying to build a shock response from it. Barring that particular scene though, all the crudeness and violence fit in line with the rest of the already ridiculous antics.
Alongside McConaughey, Dockery, and Grant, the film also stars Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, and Colin Farrell in strong supporting roles. They amp up The Gentlemen with very charismatic performances, with Grant’s Fletcher and Colin Farrell’s amateur MMA trainer, Coach, having some of the best moments. Though you would be hard-pressed to choose amongst a favourite in a film packed with wildly memorable scenes.
Watching this film reminded me of just how good a director Ritchie is when he’s at his eclectic best. While his films over the last few years have had mixed results, some great and some terrible, by branching off into other types of projects he has further honed his craft and grown his skills, reputation, and bank balance. Those diversions have clearly made him a better director as The Gentlemen has an extra layer of polish that sets it apart from previous efforts.
It may be for a select crowd and many people could find it overly offensive or even far too silly for their liking, but if you’ve enjoyed Ritchie’s early work and long for more of that, then you will have a blast watching The Gentlemen.
Last Updated: March 1, 2020