THE STORY – Mickey Pearson is an American expatriate who became rich by building a marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business, it soon triggers an array of plots and schemes from those who want his fortune.
THE CAST – Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell & Hugh Grant
THE TEAM – Guy Ritchie (Director/Writer), Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 113 Minutes
By Bianca Garner
The last time we saw the name “Guy Ritchie” it was for directing the 2019 remake of Disney’s “Aladdin.” It always seemed like an odd move on Ritchie’s part, and for a brief second one wondered whether he was going to take a different approach in his filmmaking. Were we going to see a PG family-friendly version of Ritchie? We’re barely 30 seconds into his new feature, “The Gentlemen,” when we get our first f-bomb, and then a couple of minutes later the c-word (yes, that one) is uttered by none other than Phoenix Buchanan from “Paddington 2.” What on earth would Paddington say? (Cue his hard stare.)
The gentlemen who make up “The Gentlemen” are as follows: Matthew McConaughey as pot-dealing businessman Mickey Pearson; Charlie Hunnam as Mickey’s right-hand man Raymond; Jeremy Strong as Jewish businessman Matthew who is keen to snatch up Pearson’s business; Henry Golding as gangster Dry Eye, and Colin Farrell as a coach called Coach. Mickey wants out of the business and is keen to sell it to Matthew, but things don’t exactly go to plan when one of his weed farms is broken into. As if Mickey doesn’t have enough problems, Dry Eye is trying to be the top dog and annoying Mickey’s wife Rosalind (“Downton Abbey”’s Michelle Dockery). Oh, and Grant’s greedy tabloid reporter Fletcher is trying to blackmail Raymond. Are you finding it hard to follow? Well, that’s kinda the point – or at least I think it’s intentional?
Ritchie is known for his British Gangster films such as “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” but Ritchie’s upbringing was one of privilege. (Fun Fact: Ritchie is reportedly said to share common ancestors with Kate Middleton.) In “The Gentlemen,” Mickey strives to be part of the upper-elite of England that Ritchie seems a little embarrassed to admit he belongs to. He assists Lords and Ladies with making a little money on the side by using their land to grow pot and gives them a cut of the proceeds. Perhaps this is Ritchie commenting on how everyone regardless of their class and social status can become corrupted. Still, Ritchie is less interested in making obvious political comments and far more interested in creating snappy, fast-paced dialogue.
“The Gentlemen” is clunky, it’s messy and sloppy in places, but it’s a lot of fun. Behind me there was a middle-aged woman hooting with laughter with every insult and quip that the characters dish out at each other. Dockery, Golding, and Grant seem to be having the most fun (Grant is an absolute hoot), while McConaughey seems to be playing it straight as if he’s acting in a different film. This isn’t to say that McConaughey doesn’t deliver a damn good performance, but he feels a little wound up and rigid, but maybe that’s just his style? If there is a weak link in the chain then it’s actually Strong who feels a little out-of-place with his over-the-top camp performance.
There are some gripes that I have with the film. For example, the character of Rosalind feels like a male fantasy, she runs an all female-led car shop, drives sports cars in high heels and is up for some banter. Is this Ritchie attempting to give us his example of female empowerment? If so, then why must Mickey come to the rescue of Rosalind and why must Ritchie suddenly go all Sam Peckinpah on us? Although I want to avoid spoilers, I must mention that there is one scene towards the end which left me very uncomfortable and soured my overall enjoyment of the film.
Word of caution that “The Gentlemen” is very politically incorrect, so maybe avoid seeing this with your grandma. It starts off in full throttle and doesn’t stop for its 113-minute runtime. At times the film is exhausting, and your attention will begin to falter only for a zinger of a one-liner bringing back your attention. Ritchie reminds us that he’s still one of the top dogs of all the gangster stuff, and with cinematography by Alan Stewart and editing by James Herbert, he’s managed to bring us an unexpected delight that is certain to improve on a rewatch.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A strong ensemble cast with Hugh Grant like you’ve never seen him before. Plus Ritchie proves why he’s the guv’nor of the British Gangster flick.
THE OSCARS – None