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The Gentlemen - Review

The Gentlemen

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

GUY Ritchie returns to his comfort zone with London-based crime caper The Gentlemen and succeeds in delivering a riotously entertaining, if totally non-PC, crowd-pleaser in the process.

Blessed with a star-studded ensemble cast, headed by Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Grant, the film self-consciously embraces the career-making style of his earliest two hits, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, while bringing elements of what he’s learned during his intervening Hollywood years.

The plot focuses on American Mickey Pearson (McConaughey), who presides over a huge marijuana business that sees him growing weed under the estates of Britain’s wealthiest families.

When he considers selling up to spend more time with his wife, Ros (Michelle Dockery), he must navigate between two possible investors (Jeremy Strong and Henry Golding), a tabloid editor out to ruin the deal for revenge (Eddie Marsan) and a seedy private eye (Hugh Grant) who sees an opportunity to cash in for himself.

Said story unfolds through the eyes of Grant’s PI Fletcher, as he attempts to blackmail Mickey’s No. 2 Ray (Charlie Hunnam), which allows Ritchie to toy with perception and play with the truth, thereby adding layers of complexity to an otherwise fairly straight-forward story.

But therein lies some of the pleasure in trying to work out how everyone is linked and will eventually come together (which they invariably do in wildly inventive ways).

The other pleasure is seeing how Ritchie employs his cast, often casting them against type for added absurdity. Grant’s camp, cockney Fletcher is a classic case in point, allowing the actor to revel in a role that his Four Weddings persona would spend a lifetime apologising profusely for.

While <Downton Abbey stalwart Dockery vamps it up with another Cockney accent that would leave the likes of Carson and servant Anna dropping the family silver!

McConaughey, finally dipping his toe back into something more mainstream, offers trademark Texan cool, while Colin Farrell drops in for a Brad Pitt-style slice of support (a la Snatch) and promptly walks off with most of the film’s best moments.

Pleasantly surprising, too, is the way Ritchie tones down some of the film’s violence, offering a surprisingly low body count and keeping most of the character’s most heinous acts off-camera. It’s a sign of a greater directorial maturity, even if his use of language often reverts back to the more juvenile.

And therein lies one of the film’s main criticisms. Ritchie’s propensity for over-employing both the F and C-word becomes a little too vulgar at times (he’s no swearing laureate, a la Armando Iannucci), while self-satisfied nods to filmmaking technique also feel unnecessary, while threatening to pull you out of the story.

Some of his politics feel hopelessly out-dated too, with the testosterone-heavy dialogue sometimes placing him at odds with current feminist trends. They leave elements of the film open to easy critiquing.

But then Ritchie seems prepared to embrace some of the film’s shortcomings and even revels in its excess… inviting his target audience to do the same. The result is a welcome blast from the past that serves as a proper guilty pleasure.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 1hr 53mins
UK Release Date: January 1, 2020