Written & Directed by Guy Ritchie
To be fair, my initial introduction to Guy Ritchie were films like RocknRolla and the Sherlock Holmes, which certainly brought about a sour taste in my mouth and prevented me from seeking out his much more notable films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. However, I was able to return to Ritchie’s work and find enjoyment out of his style, as his return with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a endless joyride of a film. He has been up and down since, but seeing U.N.C.L.E. certainly renewed my interested in him as a filmmaker, and opened the door for my giving him other chances to impress. As with most filmmakers, he will have his hits and misses, but what a shame it would be to miss his hits. So which is The Gentlemen, a hit or a miss?
Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) was a genius from a poor American family who found his way to Oxford on scholarship, only to use his smarts and resources to build a weed empire in England, a racket he proudly runs years later. But he is ready to enjoyment retirement and start a family with his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and is looking for a potential buyer in fellow American businessman Matthew (Jeremy Strong). But when oddball Fletcher (Hugh Grant) approaches Pearson’s right hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam) with a business proposition, they must contend with a newcomer named Dry Eye (Henry Golding) and the coincidental involvement of boxing trainer Coach (Colin Farrell) to preserve the Pearson empire from the fellow gangsters looking to take him down.
What I believe I initially chalked up to poor style and use of violence in his more mediocre films, was in fact just poor stories, perhaps told with slightly heightened stylistic choices and violence which, as a result, rubbed me the wrong way. For when I have seen Ritchie’s films work, they really do work on the strength of said style and gangster violence. With The Gentlemen, that patented style returns and once again works beautifully. I believe a good story will always enhance all that surrounds it, and in this case, Ritchie’s script is smart and stylish as well, toeing the line between too meta for its own good, and meta enough to be wildly entertaining. The twists and turns of this tale really kept me fully engaged throughout, and thoroughly entertained.
But perhaps what brings everything together best is Ritchie’s filmmaking style, which pairs the aesthetic with a technical prowess which fits the gangster tale at its center. Well choreographed violence, paired with a slick soundtrack, perfect use of slow motion, and a rhythm in editing which heightens the cool we’ve come to expect from such a stylish director like Ritchie. We really see Ritchie in his full, confident self, in full command of the camera. The result is a very entertaining and cool film which works beautifully as a British gangster film.
The Gentlemen is not a game-changing film. It doesn’t set Ritchie, or any of its cast, on a new path, or on a new echelon. But it takes an existing genre with its own, very well-established tropes, and it executes them extremely well. Could the story have been a little more ambitious and different? Sure, the story may be somewhat well-trodden, but the cast is great across the board, most notably Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell, who are given plenty to have fun with. McConaughey and Hunnam, on the other hand, while good, are not given as much scenery to chew on. All in all, this is a movie I could easily recommend to fans of this type of movie, but it’s likely also not something I come back to, or particularly remember at the end of the year. It will certainly lead the “oh yea I remember that, it was good” pack. There are far worse things to be.