Director Ritchie returns to fan-pleasing roots in 'The Gentlemen'

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 1/24/20

“The Gentlemen” is actually writer-director Guy Ritchie’s second return to the London-based wide boy gangster milieu he rode to celebrity with “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

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Director Ritchie returns to fan-pleasing roots in 'The Gentlemen'

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Matthew McConaughey (center), Charlie Hunnam and Henry Golding star in Guy Ritchie's new gangster comedy 'The Gentlemen.'
Matthew McConaughey (center), Charlie Hunnam and Henry Golding star in Guy Ritchie's new gangster comedy 'The Gentlemen.'
Photo courtesy of Miramax
Posted

“The Gentlemen” is actually writer-director Guy Ritchie’s second return to the London-based wide boy gangster milieu he rode to celebrity with “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

After a dalliance in romantic-comedy, Ritchie directed “Revolver” and “RocknRolla,” which were so poorly received that they made Ritchie retreat into a decade-long string of remakes — Sherlock Holmes, King Arthur, Will Smith as a big blue genie, and his underrated “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

All of Ritchie’s trademark frenzied flourishes are on full display in “The Gentlemen,” an almost self-parody that will appeal to Ritchie devotees. There are quick cuts, screen captions, slow mo and flashbacks. There are mockney accents and idiosyncratic English slang: a drug kingpin estimates the sale price of his operation as “a nugget less than five yard.” There are endless oddball non sequiturs—“In France, it’s illegal to call a pig Napoleon, but try and stop me” is a line that admittedly made me laugh out loud. Ritchie crams all these tropes into a twisty tale comprising multiculti miscreants and an array of venues: underground greenhouses, boxing gyms, chop shops, tea houses, meat lockers, etc.

Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is an affluent American expat reared in London who has secretly built a marijuana empire. Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey’s right-hand man, is visited by a private eye named Fletcher (Hugh Grant, sporting a jarring cockney accent), who proceeds to regale Raymond with elaborate shakedown presented as if Fletcher was pitching a movie script. Fletcher is keenly aware of a series of misadventures involving Mickey and his attempt to sell part of his business to a Jewish investor (Jeremy Strong). Lurking around and looking for their piece of the action is a crazy rich Asian gangster (Henry Golding, “Crazy Rich Asians”), a tabloid publisher (Eddie Marsan), a no-nonsense Irish boxing coach (Colin Farrell) and of course some Russian heavies.

While the supporting cast gives their goofy all, McConaughey’s too-cool-for-school persona choice saps the film of its energy. Still, there’s a cheeky charm that holds your attention throughout, despite a story that often lacks logical fidelity and some low-grade misogyny and rampant racism endemic to the setting. This is slick, signature Guy Ritchie, with just enough class satire and crass wit to please its target audience.

While its parts are more than its sum, there’s a flair and sure-handedness here that will please Ritchie’s fans, even if it feels like he’s preaching to the converted.

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