In The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie delivers an entertaining, complex, clever crime drama in which pleasure is derived from watching the madness unfold.
Forget everything you know about the Guy Ritchie that gave us Aladdin and King Arthur: Legends of the Sword. Try to remember, instead, the visionary director behind RocknRolla‘s compelling title sequences, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels‘s gripping chase scenes, Sherlock Holmes‘s catchy lines and fast-paced action, and Snatch‘s hilarious dialogues and iconic characters. That is precisely the Guy Ritchie you’ll be reunited with as you watch The Gentlemen, a clever, compelling, absolutely insane crime drama whose incredibly appealing visuals match its complex characterization and intriguing plot.
In fact, it doesn’t even matter what The Gentlemen is all about. Old school Guy Ritchie can decide to do a film about pretty much anything, and you can be certain it will be eyecatching, entertaining and impressive from a technical point of view. And, though his latest drama is not the best movie the Snatch director has ever done, it is certainly no exception to the rule. For this reason, it doesn’t really matter if it’s sometimes hard to understand what’s going on when we are first introduced to its ambigious leading characters, or if it’s challenging to tell the difference between truth and fiction in their cryptic conversations.
Guy Ritchie’s protagonists, settings and objects have an unexplicable, hypnotic appeal that give The Gentlemen that kind of realism you’d usually find in theatre plays. When marijuana magnate Mickey (Matthew McConaughey) takes a sip of his whiskey, you can almost taste it. When private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) appears in a leather jacket, you can almost feel it, just like you can smell the gunpowder every time a bullet is fired. No matter whether they’re good guys or gangsters, Ritchie’s protagonists are so captivating that you are immediately drawn to their world. You want to know more about them, you wish you could hang out with them, and, sometimes, you even wish you were them.
Guy Ritchie’s Gentlemen embody an interesting contradiction: though their business is certainly not of the most gentleman-like kind, there is a certain class about them, that can be perceived in everything they do, from the way they dress to how they handle their affairs. And the main player, Mickey (McConaughey), is the most gentleman-like of them all: the American, Oxford-educated marijuana magnate is a rich, middle-aged man who has grown tired of the drug dealing business. The drug dealer is ready to retire, and wishes to sell the holdings of his empire – an empire that consists of illegal underground farms that have all the looks and the efficiency of harmless modern factories. Of course, more than one player is interested in buying the billionaire’s business, and that is the premise for a series of unexpected developments that will have you laughing for the entire duration of the movie.
In fact, our potential buyers are no less fascinating. From big league American boss Matthew (Succession‘s Jeremy Strong) to Chinese crime lord Dry Eye (Crazy Rich Asians‘s Henry Golding), the other magnates are just as erudite, clever and resourceful as Mickey is. But they are also not the only players in this game. A sleazy investigator/wannabe screenwriter (Fletcher, played by Hugh Grant) is trying to dig up some dirt by visiting Mickey’s second-in-command (Ray, played to perfection by Charlie Hunnam) – a right-hand man with more than one trick up his sleeve. And then there’s an Irish boxing instructor (Colin Farrell) looking after a group of disadvantaged young boys, who makes an unexpected appearance with a speech that could only be defined as the urban version of a Shakespearian monologue.
There are excellent performances in The Gentlemen, starting from McConaughey’s: the Dallas Buyers Club actor is in his comfort zone as a leading man who is as well-spoken as he is captivating, and Michelle Dockery shines as his aristocratic (though no less shady), resourceful wife. Hugh Grant entertains in a role we don’t always get to see him in, and Jason Wong provides much needed comic relief as Dry Eye’s unfortunately named accomplice. Yet, the real stars of the movie are Colin Farrell and Charlie Hunnam, who deliver the excellent lines they’re given in an extremely charming yet utterly bonkers way that will make you wish for more.
The Gentlemen is a beautifully crafted theatre play disguised as a crime drama, one that makes good use of all the magic that only cinema can give. And not only is this cinematic play as witty and sophisticated as they come, but it’s also entertaining and absolutely insane – though in a surprisingly logical way. This gritty, sexy, captivating drama has the feel of a noir film, one in which seamless, innovative editing goes hand in hand with superb visuals and sound. Yet, The Gentlemen is not just impressive from a technical point of view: it’s also a genuinely enjoyable movie in which pleasure is derived simply from watching the madness unfold.
The Gentlemen is now showing in the U.K. and will be released in the U.S. and select countries on January 24.