The Gentlemen, 2020.
Written and Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, Jeremy Strong, Brittany Ashworth, Jason Wong, Jordan Long, Chidi Ajufo, Mike Bodnar, Christopher Evangelou, Coco Sumner, Tom Wu, Lyne Renee, Bugzy Malone, Max Bennett, and Eddie Marsan.
A British drug lord tries to sell off his highly profitable empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires.
Writer/director Guy Ritchie certainly thrives in high-octane chaos filmmaking, especially of the gangster variety which The Gentlemen happens to be a return to, following a couple of blockbuster disappointments in Disney’s Aladdin live-action remake and his own spin on the legendary fable of King Arthur (a disaster critically and commercially, but a personal guilty pleasure of this critic). Simply put, it’s logical to go back to the well in this situation. What makes no earthly sense is that Guy Ritchie has given this new twisty crime thriller a framing device that hinders his own strengths as a filmmaker.
Hugh Grant stars as Fletcher, an openly homosexual (there is a lot of sexual innuendo and kink dialogue here, also occasionally from others to where I’m honestly not sure if it’s meant to be a true reflection of the characters or fun goofy dialogue for the sake of it) reporter who has a dirty scoop on Matthew McConaughey’s London weed drug Lord Mickey Pearson. After amassing riches and a beautiful supportive wife (Michelle Dockery), Mickey is looking to cash out of the game which includes selling off his wide-ranging infrastructure of British estates doubling as secret territory for growing various kinds of drugs.
The set up sounds like a plot Guy Ritchie could have a lot of fun with, and there’s no denying that he does. Meanwhile, Fletcher also has to work out some details with Mickey’s trusted confidant Ray (Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnam, showing some real charisma that threatens to steal the film from both Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey when he is given about 20 minutes of prime focus) under the façade of offering help for the two of them. For whatever reason, Guy Ritchie has made the creative decision to revolve these conversations around Fletcher discussing a draft for a movie script he has written about the three above individuals and the numerous other names playing a part in the greater story.
This does allow for Guy Ritchie to play around with different perspectives (a trademark of his sidewinding crime flicks), but its primary purpose seems to be self-indulging on filmmaking commentary that comes off as more of an unnecessary distraction. This is made more of a problem by the fact that some details of the actual story get lost in the shuffle due to the rapid-fire nature of the wordplay stingers also functioning as plot development. Worst of all, the constant interjections disrupt any momentum that The Gentlemen may or may not be building at any given time. The obvious comparison here is Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie is not Quentin Tarantino.
At a certain point, all of these characters (which also includes Jeremy Strong as a weasel of a potential buyer for the drug empire, Henry Golding as rival bidding competition with much more of a mean streak and has something to prove in regards to his family legacy, Colin Farrell dressed like he is about to go golfing and is associated with breakdancing rappers that film in abandoned locations and upload their theatrics to YouTube, and a heroin addict used as part of a blackmailing scheme to ruin Mickey) are caught up to speed (as is the audience). That includes learning what really happens during the opening scene meant to be shocking, but flat out fails both because it’s entirely unbelievable and also that anyone paying attention can figure out within 30 minutes what’s really going to go down.
This also means that Guy Ritchie frees himself of his hypothetical movie script narrative device, and from there The Gentlemen picks up steam like a locomotive threatening to go off the tracks at any second yet never does. Good luck keeping track of how many twists there are in the last 30-40 minutes (not all of them are predictable). However, what really earns this one a recommendation is just how comically demented the script gets, almost as if all of that amusing kinky dialogue was serving as preparation for some really disturbing events later on. Animal lovers, stay at home; there is something here involving a pig that can’t be unseen even if we don’t actually see it. That’s also not the only method of stylistic torture; just wait until you see what Guy Ritchie does with poison.
Normally, a good third act wouldn’t be enough to salvage an entire movie, but even when the frustrating framing device is getting in the way the solid cast is always electric and game for what Guy Ritchie has in store. The Gentlemen breaks away from all its flaws just before it’s too late, transitioning into something absurdly fun with a working nasty comeuppance for its more repellant characters. Maybe Guy Ritchie should stick to all style no substance after all.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com