Tuesday 11 February 2020

The Gentlemen ★★★★★

The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie’s latest attempt to glamourise the seedy side of London life, with a tale of villianery that generally manages to match up to the earlier outings in his portfolio. It might not be his magnum opus, but it’s close to his stylish best.

Framed as a conversation about a script between a bent private investigator and a mid-level gangster, Fletcher (Hugh Grant) and Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) discuss the recent exploits of Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) in The Gentlemen.

Pearson is in the process of selling his vast weed empire which spans the UK, but everything begins to go wrong as he’s about to seal the £200m deal. What follows are the exploits of the baron and his accomplices as they attempt to unfuck things, introducing a range of colourful, violent characters that you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of. 

Dry Eye (Henry Golding) has a significant role as “the Young Dragon”, while Matthew (Jeremy Strong) is Pearson’s elusive buyer. The same goes for Coach (Colin Farrell) who seems to be channelling his brand of dangerous insensitivity previously seen In Bruges. He looks after a group of MMA fighters called The Toddlers (including Bugzy Malone), and everything quickly begins to unravel as different worlds collide.

You know what you’re going to get with a Guy Ritchie flick starring some of the biggest names in the game, backed by a strong cast of British talent. Of the ensemble, Grant especially seems to revel in playing against type, but there are strong performances all round. McConaughey more than manages to make his mark, seemingly authentic enough to get away with using lingo that probably didn’t fly from his mouth comfortably the first time he read the script.

You’re expected to pay attention at all times, as the story within a story allows for different viewpoints, theories and perspectives, told by a slightly unreliable narrator who clearly has his own agenda. The early dynamic between Fletcher and Raymond is a good setup for the final act, while every loose thread is tied up before the credits roll. Nothing is forgotten, and everything matters.

Despite reaching the big time, there’s no sense that Ritchie has forgotten how to make the films that made him famous. If anything, it’s safer ground than big-budget Disney releases like Aladdin, which don’t necessarily play to his strengths as a storyteller. The Gentlemen is less gritty than the likes of Lock Stock and Snatch, but it’s worth remembering that the latter came out roughly 20 years ago. The sheen is a sign of the two decades that have passed, while Ritchie’s dialogue writing skills are still up there with the very best if you just want to laugh and enjoy the ride.

James Millin-Ashmore

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