The rather unconventional visionary Guy Ritchie has been stuck in a Hollywood rut for the last ten years, ever since he committed to big budget, visual effects heavy films, such as Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and this year’s underwhelming live action version of the classic Disney, ‘Aladdin‘. The British director goes back to his roots with the highly entertaining gangster film ‘The Gentlemen‘ and surprisingly nails every bold punch he makes.
Although his ‘Aladdin‘ made a ton of money, critically the film was a disaster. His return to the underground world of bribery, drugs, money-laundering and blood-covered-class, is as refreshing as it is entertaining. The film’s script deals with two storylines at the same time, almost breaking the fourth wall with a tongue-in-cheek commentary on today’s Hollywood and how big movie studios are hungry for some original yet overly mainstream basic content, to lure people into cinemas to go watch their films.
Beginning with a quick flash forward that ends with a bang and a pair of brains splattered all over a pint and a pickled egg at a typical British pub, we dial it back to a quiet evening at Raymond’s (Charlie Hunnam) cosy house. When private investigator and intrusive sly fox, Fletcher (Hugh Grant), turns up at his house, he explains he has been keeping an eye on the different gangs around town for quite a while. Narrating most of the film and making some stuff up to make things more spectacular for himself, he reads his mostly finished movie script to Raymond, bribing him into funding his little project, or else he’ll leak all the information he has on Raymond’s boss Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), a white trash American expat who has build himself a marijuana empire.
Mickey is tired of the business and is trying to sell his highly profitable company to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires. But when one of the underground weed-plantations gets raided by a group of British lads, filming the entire thing and posting it on YouTube as some sort of fight-porn-music-video, it quickly becomes clear some mobster bosses haven’t been exactly honest about their meetings and loyalty towards each other. This is when the real war begins – while keeping it classy.
Ritchie co-wrote the story with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, who haven’t written anything before. The idea of the entire film is prodigious, but the screenplay and dialogue is simply unprecedented by Ritchie himself, bringing joke after joke, while taking you on a thrilling ride full of genius twists and new ways to incorporate classic gangster cinema – Ritchie-style. Composer Christopher Benstead is debuting his very first score for a feature film with The Gentlemen, and knows exactly how to set the tone and drive it up to an eleven. A promising talent that won’t go unnoticed.
Ritchie introduces new characters throughout the film, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat, surprising them with actual cinema, getting the best angles and money shots, thanks to his cinematographer Alan Stewart (Aladdin). When adding layer after layer to the story, going deeper into the underground scene, adding a new protagonist who’s into human trafficking and Mickey’s queen and wife, the cockney Cleopatra, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), who owns a sanctuary for the ladies as some sort of business coverup to her husband’s weed-empire, it becomes clear every role has a purpose and there are no extras involved in this story. One of the best acting ensembles in recent cinema history, and a welcome reminder from McConnaughey as to why he won an Oscar in the first place. But it’s Colin Farrell (as the highly entertaining ‘Coach’) and Hugh Grant who steal every scene they’re in with their remarkable wit that’ll for sure land them some BAFTA-nominations.
‘The Gentlemen‘ is a ruthless first-class kick in the teeth. Do not let the failures of Ritchie’s recent career choices scare you, as this is actually one of the best films he’s ever made. Who knew Guy Ritchie could raise the bar not just for himself, but for everyone out there trying to brush him off as a has been. 2020 is off to a great start!
Review – ‘The Gentlemen’
Reviewed at Event Cinemas Boutique, Sydney, Dec. 2, 2019. Australian Classification: MA15. Running time: 113 min.
PRODUCTION: A Roadshow Films release of a Miramax production. Producers: Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Bill Block. Executive producers: Bob Osher, Matthew Anderson, Andrew Golov, Alan Wands, Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson. Co-producers: Max Keene, Matthew McConaughey.
CREW: Director: Guy Ritchie. Screenplay: Guy Ritchie, from a story by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies. Camera (color, widescreen): Alan Stewart. Editor: James Herbert. Music: Christopher Benstead.
WITH: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Michelle Dockery, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan.