Film Review – The Gentlemen
Guy Ritchie is a prolific screenwriter and director. He has a style that is unmistakably original in some of his films. Surprisingly (at least for me), the recent live-action Aladdin (2019) is also one of his films. Ritchie is not afraid to take chances and divert from his more iconic films like Sherlock Holmes (2009), Snatch, and his first Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. In the case of The Gentlemen, he returned to the formula and look of his more successful films, and it paid off in spades.
The Gentlemen revolves around a crew of nare-do-wells, men involved in illicit activities. Well, illicit is a bit too strong considering it all revolves around the illegal growing and sale of marijuana, aka weed, aka bush, which the slang term for it across the pond. The illegality of weed lends itself to the seedy underbelly of society, but in the case of The Gentlemen, the men involved are more of the upper crust of society or at least they put on the airs of being such, considering how much wealth their business has brought them. At the center of a burgeoning, well-run weed business is Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American transplant since university who had the smarts to use the aristocracy’s lack of cash flow to his advantage. When Mickey decides to sell his business to spend more time with his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) and enjoy the fruits of his labor, things get complicated and the story takes off from there. Enter Matthew (Jeremy Strong), another American eager to buy the burgeoning and well-managed business.
The Gentlemen uses a narrator of sorts to tell its story. Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is a private investigator who works for whoever can pay the most money for his story. He is in with the papers, especially Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), an editor or owner of one of the top newspapers in England. Fletcher breaks into Mickey Pearson’s right-hand man’s house and tells Ray (Charlie Hunnam) why his boss should pay big bucks for his story and the corresponding evidence. Fletcher largely weaves the film’s story.
The Gentlemen never gets predictable or lazy in its storytelling, and this is its greatest strength. It has a myriad of characters that come in and out of the story, and none of the actors are in a role in which they would typically be type-casted. Hugh Grant sticks out as the overall greatest strength and unexpected pleasure to see him perform as Fletcher. His accent, while still English, is not his own vernacular and if I were well-versed in the different English accents, I might be able to point the one he uses flawlessly. He hides his face behind glasses and a baggy costume with a slight slouch. He is “sticky” for lack of a better word. He knows where he could make a buck and use his subjects to his advantage. He believes he is one step ahead until he enters Ray’s house.
While the story is compelling and unpredictable, the casting also makes for an unexpected pleasure seeing actors out of their element. Lucinda Syson cast the film and was able to cast actors using their strengths but in ways not previously seen. To put it mildly, Syson should be given credit for seeing the missed potential in these actors, including the younger actors. Colin Farrell plays Coach, a guy who tries to bring up teens in his boxing gym and make them better men. Some of his kids get into trouble with Mickey Pearson which makes Coach stand up and take responsibility for their actions. This role has to be one of the most hilarious he has undertaken, paired with the crew cut and the tracksuit. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) gets some bad teeth as Dry Eye and an opportunity to play a criminal trying to make a name for himself from under the foot of his uncle, Lord George (Tom Wu).
Critics will undoubtedly take Guy Ritchie to task for not including more women in his film. The only woman in it is Rosalind, and she is a sight to behold on her own. She is one of the stronger female characters in this type of film, and her husband loves her to obsession. While other films with very little female involvement would be called “guys films,” I would take issue with this moniker for The Gentlemen. It is too smart, sophisticated, hilarious, and just a delight to negate the female audience that will be interested in seeing it. It is not an action film with guns blazing, explosions, and people getting killed left and right.
All you need to know about The Gentlemen is that it is Guy Ritchie’s best film to date, hands down. I set my expectations low for the film and they were blown out of the park within the first 20 minutes. The film weaves a complex story that works itself out in the end, better than expected. It is like a whodunit, but with false assumptions by the audience which Ritchie counts on. I found it to be hilarious at the right times, especially seeing well-known actors out of their element. Hopefully, The Gentlemen allows Ritchie to continue to do what he does best, his own original films.