Dan's Review: "The Gentlemen" a welcome return to Guy Ritchie's roots
Jan 24, 2020 07:13PM
By Dan Metcalf
Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Dockery in The Gentlemen - © 2020 STXfilms.
The Gentlemen (STXfilms)
Rated R for violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant, Chidi Ajufo, Jason Wong, Brittany Ashworth, Samuel West, Eliot Sumner, Lyne Renée, Chris Evangelou, Franz Drameh, Bugzy Malone, Tom Wu.
Written by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Guy Ritchie is a hit-and-miss kind of director. When he’s on his game, his films are brilliant and even surprisingly decent (Aladdin? Who knew?). When he’s off, well – he’s really off (Swept Away, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword). It’s good to know he’s still got a few great films in him, even though they mostly rely on a cockney-gangster-comedy setting. His latest film The Gentlemen is a return to Ritchie’s strengths - and a welcome return at that.
The plot can be a little tricky, so here’s the spoiler-free premise: Matthew McConaughey plays Michael Pearson, an American ex-pat kingpin who runs the largest marijuana ring in Great Britain. His right-hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam) is confronted by Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a slimy private detective who blackmails Mike with information about his illegal doings that he threatens to send to a Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), a dubious newspaper editor with an ax to grind. Fletcher reveals everything he knows about Mike’s illegal enterprise, including murder, deceit and other vices that come with the territory. At the same time, Mike is trying to sell his enterprise to Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) a Jewish-American ex-pat with his own ties to shady networks. In an effort to drive down the price of Mike’s marijuana empire, Berger stages a few unfortunate events inside the pot-growing facilities, located underground on the country estates of several down-on-their-luck lords and ladies who share the profits. Berger also recruits “Dry Eye” (Henry Golding) to drum up the competition. Meanwhile a group of boxing hooligans led by “Coach” (Colin Farrell) are caught up in the scheme, forcing them to realign their allegiance. When his life is threatened and his wife Rosalind is attacked, Mike must decide whether it’s better or not to stay in the game.
The Gentlemen is a very funny (in a very dark way, considering the murder and mayhem and violence) and well-crafted film, complemented by a few great performances. As the lead character, McConaughey is more than adequate, but the ensemble is the movie’s greatest strength. The two power hitters among the group are Hugh Grant and Collin Farrell, who provide the majority of laughs with their brilliant comic timing and memorable characterizations, even though they share only one scene together.
The Gentlemen is further buoyed by Ritchie’s deliberate choice to hold back when most filmmakers would venture into cheap shock value. In other words, I’m more impressed by what is not seen in the movie. For example, during one scene, a character is shown a video of himself in a compromising position. Instead of seen the abhorrent behavior, we are entreated with his reaction and those around him. In another scene, you know something terrible and violent is going to happen to a main character, but instead of graphic makeup and special effects, we cut to the next scene, allowing the audience to imagine the worst, instead of being bludgeoned over the head by gratuitous scenes.
The Gentlemen may be somewhat repetitive for Guy Ritchie, whose best work usually happens in these British gangster dark comedies. On the other hand, if you’re good at something, most of the time, you stick with it.
"The Gentlemen" Trailer