Rogues all over but nary a gentleman in Guy Ritchie's return to mobsters from London.
Director: Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Mud), Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword)
Runtime: 1hr 53m
By: John DeSando
“If you wish to be the king of the jungle, it’s not enough to act like the king, you must be the king.” Mickey (Matthew McConaughey)
The Gentlemen is not director Guy Ritchie as we knew him, a turn of the century bad-boy filmmaker whose Lock, Stock and Two smoking Barrels shook up the Brit gangster genre in a smaller way but like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction did for America. Even though he seems to be knocking off himself in stylishness, the style is what gives this otherwise derivative plot spark.
American drug dealer Mickey (the “king” of the opening quote) is selling his $200 million pound Brit pot enterprise, with considerable interest from local dealers and Asians, led by Dry Eye (Henry Golding). The framing story is told by working-class snoop Fletcher (Hugh Grant), who is trying to extort 20 million from Mickey through his cool consiglieri, Ray (Charlie Hunnam).
Given the complexity of the characters, none fully developed, it’s a challenge to work with this plot coherently. Suffice it to say, power, racial slams, and generational warfare form the heft of the interpersonal relationships, and the rest is boilerplate gangster gymnastics. As one of the thugs says, “There’s fuckery afoot.”
From the smokey forms of the opening credits to the appropriate grime music, Ritchie lards his story and mise en scene with contemporary swagger and silly setups. The presence of a revived Miramax Studios and brief mention of Brexit help elevate the story from old-folks sentimentality to tense urban machismo.
Fletcher avers about his own screenplay, typical Ritchie--“Bush,” that frames this film, “a bit boring, to be honest.” That could be a description of The Gentlemen, if it weren’t for the talented gentleman actors (like Colin Farrell as a coach to young hoods) doing their best work for a better film than they undoubtedly thought.
Yet, as The Jam says at the end, “That’s entertainment.”
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.