Remember King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and last year’s Aladdin? Woof, I try to forget those two disasters and the fact that they’re from a talented filmmaker like Guy Ritchie.
Yes, the same Guy who did the classic British-centric crime films Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The same Guy who also gave us a few decent Sherlock Holmes movie adaptations that stick close to the source material and structure moreso than the garbage fire Stephen Moffat created for the BBC.
2020 sounds like the year that Guy Ritchie plans to get back to the good graces of his crime film fans. His latest work, The Gentlemen, is exactly that: a well-made reparation that goes back to his 90s and 2000s directing & writing roots, touched up with this era’s modern sensibilities. Accents and all.
Green Grass, High Tides
The Gentlemen is basically a story about a expat American named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) trying to sell his long-standing business-slash-empire, and the troubles that impede it along the way. The thing is, the business he’s getting out of is the weed and marijuana distribution trade, and his clients and troublemakers are gangsters and cutthroats from all walks of life in London.
The players in this game? There’s aplenty just like in your well-made comedy crime flick. We have a tabloid journalist named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) with insider information and the intention to blackmail Mickey and his associates. Said associate is Ray (Charlie Hunnan), part business assistant to the marijuana trade, part cleanup guy with his own flunkies. We also have the Chinese drug-dealing group and its future heir Dry Eyes (Henry “Malaysia Boleh” Golding), and a gym owner nicknamed Coach (Colin Farrell) who is trying to keep his ass-kicking heavily-trained trap music-loving teenage students in line.
To reveal more would do this film a huge disservice. The Gentlemen is a very carefully-crafted jigsaw puzzle that reveals itself as each piece gets assembled. Thanks to the entire cast bringing their A-game, the story and cinematography flow with style and major substance.
Standouts in the character department include Hugh Grant’s opportunistic journalist-slash-budding-scriptwriter, Colin Farrell’s well-intentioned Coach, and Charlie Hunnan’s crafty-as-all-hell Ray.
That said, you need to pay attention to the telltales and little cinematic details and cues. I don’t blame you if you’re immediately confused with the setup and non-linear narrative within the first 30 minutes or so, especially with the British terms for weed and other sorts of illicit activities thrown about casually. Then again, the film would end up sterile and colourless without it.
A Toke of Appreciation
Simply put, The Gentlemen is a masterclass film. All is forgiven, Guy Ritchie; you’ve done yourself proud with this fun gangster comedy flick.
Its only inherent flaw is that it presents its plot and structure in an intentionally complex manner, that you’ll need to watch it again so that you don’t miss a beat. Still, skipping this return to form would be a crime most unforgivable.