Guy Ritchie’s living his best “Guy Ritchie as a filmmaker” life with his latest wild and raunchy action-comedy, The Gentlemen. The film reunites Ritchie with his King Arthur: Legend of the Sword star Charlie Hunnam and returns the writer/director to his Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels rapid-fire expletive-filled roots.
The Gentlemen is a whodunit mob-style escapade with Matthew McConaughey snuggly fitting into the role of smug marijuana kingpin Mickey Pearson who’s ready to exit his U.K. business prior to the government’s expected legalization of weed. Hunnam plays his right-hand man, Ray, the leader of Mickey’s mini-herd of muscular enforcers. He’s more refined than the men he oversees but equally as adept at taking out any and all of his boss’ enemies.
Ray’s an unusual duck who Hunnam describes as “sort of like [Batman’s butler] Alfred to Matthew’s Batman – if Alfred was a twitching, OCD occasionally psychotic employee.”
Succession’s Jeremy Strong plays Matthew, the top candidate to buy Mickey’s criminal empire. Infusing the affluent Matthew with an effeminate/Sherman (of Mr. Peabody and Sherman) vibe, this seemingly standup guy’s a shrewd businessman with more than a trick or two tucked up his tailored sleeves.
The star studded-ness of The Gentlemen doesn’t end there. Hugh Grant has settled into embracing weird characters as he ages, and investigator/paparazzi Fletcher might be one of his weirdest to date. Fletcher’s hungry for a huge payout and Mickey’s maneuverings to leave the weed business provide plenty of juicy tabloid fodder he can use to swing a lucrative deal.
Colin Farrell manages to steal scene after scene from his heavyweight co-stars as Coach, a man whose talents lie in teaching young men the way to handle themselves physically in almost any circumstance, be it in or out of the boxing ring. Coach is a well-meaning guy who, when push comes to shove, will bend the rules to keep his students out of trouble. How that eventually connects him to Mickey and Ray is a true Ritchie-styled twist.
Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery slips into form-fitting outfits and sexy stilettos as Mickey’s wife, Rosalind. Don’t dare degrade her as simply arm candy; Rosalind’s an equal partner in Mickey’s business and in fact the film, at its heart, is a love story between the two.
There’s one more major player tossing his hat in the ring to take on the crown of weed king. Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding goes all suave gangster-y as Dry Eye, a wannabe drug lord itching to prove he can play in the same league as the big boys.
The Gentlemen has apparently been floating around in the filmmaker’s mind for years. “It all spoke to my interest in exploring the meeting of disparate polarities in the English and American class systems. The characters have reached an age where they are magnetically drawn to the finer things in life and have become gentrified in their rather ungentrified business,” explained Ritchie. He also admits there aren’t many characters who could legitimately be labeled gentlemen in The Gentlemen.
As is the norm with a Ritchie film, The Gentlemen’s stuffed to the gills with colorful characters. A few who take up lesser amounts of screen time deserve more – Colin Farrell and Michelle Dockery in particular – but overall Ritchie does an impressive job of spreading his intricate, stylized dialogue out among the major players. Speaking of that dialogue, Ritchie hasn’t altered his take on topical subjects much over the years; The Gentlemen’s only real downfall is its dated approach to sexuality and race.
Ritchie squeezes an enormous amount of story into a brisk two-hour running time. He also squeezes every expletive imaginable (as well as some I’d never known existed) into the R-rated testosterone-fueled comedy. After spending the last decade having varying degrees of success on projects including King Arthur and Aladdin, it’s great to see Guy Ritchie return to the style that launched his career.
The Gentlemen has a slick, retro feel to it and it’s fun to just let yourself become immersed in this twisted gangster world. The actors are obviously all in and with McConaughey in the lead, the film provides a couple hours of over-the-top entertainment.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content
Release Date: January 24, 2020
Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes