As always, thanks again to Courtney:
Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen signifies a return to the crime-laden and humourous style that originally established his career. Save for Matthew McConaughey’s criminal protagonist ‘Mickey’, who hails from the US in a very odd and out of place casting choice, this film is definitively British in every way. The classic UK-style of dry humour plays a big role, and the way the script is written and delivered maximises the potential it presents.
Mickey’s game is marijuana – truly massive quantities of it. He wants out though – in other words he wants to cash his cheque after years’ of hard work keeping the operation underground. This draws attention from many interested parties, all whose personalities contrast against each other gloriously and soon Mickey is forced to negotiate after a video hits the net that doesn’t cast his enterprise in a respectful way, to put it lightly. As Ritchie returns to what he knows best, it is quickly apparent that he is using his many years of experience to create a more polished and mature film that those that made his name.
The aforementioned eccentric, exaggerated characters litter the story on both sides, ranging from high ranking British officials to Asian gangs to other, low-key parties who have all taken an interest in Mickey’s business and they don’t intend to play fair. The man taking charge of the Asian contingent is hilariously known as ‘Dry-Eye’ (Henry Golding), an obvious reference to what one’s eyes feel like if smoking weed (or ‘bush’ as the Poms seem to call it). Another is known as ‘Phuc’ (James Wong), which prompts amusing discussions of how it is spelt versus how it is pronounced.
The rapid-fire, witty script is what powers the film for the most part: again,. quintessentially British with an incredible number of one-liners that never feel forced, principally because they are rooted in British slang and culture. Ritchie has created the tightest screenplay and script of his career, and as an artist, he quite rightly ignores current societal trends that yearn to not ‘offend’. It seems he can see them for what they truly are. His gleeful use of the almighty ‘c-word’ is consistent throughout, and its use alone will surely divide viewers, a sentiment I can’t quite understand given its a single word, and again a part of British slang.
Clearly then, this is a film that doesn’t understand, nor care, about ‘political correctness’.
An unexpected but pleasant surprise is Hugh Grant, complete with a Cockney accent. He excels in perhaps the biggest against-type role in recent history, playing a dodgy private detective who seems to have all the answers, and the confidence to back it up. He is easily the centre of all the scenes he is in, and subsequently the film itself due to the interesting way Ritchie lets the story unfold. Grant flirts with Mickey’s trusted friend/business adviser/’right-hand-man’ Ray (an appropriately understated Charlie Hunnam) after the fact, and that his documentation of the events as a screenplay adds further sauce into the saucepan along with the effortless flashbacks that are easily distinguishable given he and Hunnam’s interaction doesn’t leave the room it begins in.
Grant soars in a role seemingly written for him and him only, flying far higher than McConaughey, who himself looks high on his own supply for the entire film. McConaughey hasn’t been the centre of a great film for a few years now and, despite being the focal point of the story, he is out-shined by all co-stars here. His autopilot mode is engaged and the film suffers as a result, but it does give bit players such as a boxing coach played by Colin Farrell, and especially his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) who easily holds her own amongst the men who are often pushing an image that exceeds their true personality, or abilities for that matter. She is the diamond in the the rough and probably possesses the most legitimate ‘take-no-shit’ attitude of any player in this farcical caper.
As for Grant, the future surely holds further exciting roles, and he undoubtedly deserves them as easily the best, most magnetic and memorable part of the entire film, more so than the story itself, which admittedly is a slight problem. As for Ritchie, he has made a very loud splash after a series of underwhelming films. Using experience and versatility to tell his story in a cleverly presented fashion, The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie’s best film in years as his take-no-prisoners approach returns to the fore.
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