Matthew McConaughey leads a star-studded cast in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, as a marijuana tycoon trying to cash up and get out of the biz. Clearly, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
As Adam Fresco details, it’s flawed and potentially offensive, but a stylish treat for fans of Ritchie’s early flicks, even if it lacks their energetic, whiplash pace.
Harking back to his Brit gangster movie origins, Guy Ritchie delivers an entertaining tale that may lack the energetic, whiplash pace of Lock, Stock and Snatch, but retains much of the colourful characters, linguistic flourishes and non-linear narrative playfulness.
There’s a snarky sense throughout of Ritchie having a go at political correctness “gawn mad”, but being “woke” to characters’ constant casual sexist and racist remarks doesn’t magic those issues away. If you can excuse Ritchie’s macho-centric world, with its constant c-word curses and racist slurs, then there is plenty to relish. Matthew McConaughey is cool and composed as British-based marijuana kingpin Mickey Pearson, looking to sell up his business and retire. He’s devoted to his wife, played by Michelle Dockery, a tough-as-nails businesswoman. She’s more than capable of holding her own in a male-dominated and sometimes violent world, (although her all-female car repair shop for posh clients seems more a 1970s Bond movie set-piece than a sincere attempt at feminism!)
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Charlie Hunnam is a revelation here as Mickey’s right-hand man, capable of violence when called on, but always first resorting to reason. Colin Farrell is delightful as a coach for young fighters, his superb comedy timing and acting chops lending his character unexpected depth. Jeremy Strong (the eldest son in TVs Succession) plays an annoyingly camp kingpin Mickey hopes to sell his weed empire to, Henry Golding makes a cracking young gangster, and Hugh Grant has a ball as Fletcher, the oily, amoral cockney journalist sent by Eddie Marsan’s thinly sketched tabloid newspaper editor to investigate Mickey’s nefarious business. Grant’s outstanding, but Ritchie’s writing often smacks of a homophobia that renders the comedy cruel.
Bookended by the trite trick of a film script being narrated to us, a device that soon grates, and replete with references to modern British politics (from former Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Piggate” scandal to Brexit), there’s a cracking multicultural cast, who all work to ensure their otherwise two-dimensional, cliché-ridden characters leap off the page and land onscreen as rounded, if fatally flawed, individuals.
Ritchie’s argument seems to be people are racist, sexist and homophobic in reality, so why bother with PC attempts to cover up real behaviour? C’mon Guv, it’s only hyper-stylised fiction, innit? But it’s an argument, like McConaughey’s beautifully tailored suits, that soon wears thin despite an initially stylish allure. Then again, with a full-on, shot-by-shot homage to the end of Brit gangster classic The Long Good Friday thrown in, the great cast, fun plot and solid direction make The Gentlemen a stylish treat for fans of Ritchie’s early flicks.