Ritch(ie) Nostalgia: A Review of ‘The Gentlemen’
Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen is a dose of film nostalgia, a journey back to the British crime territory he first made his name with
As a film director, Guy Ritchie has always had a fervent following, thanks to his initial trademark films that became the gold standard of the British crime genre. Choppy editing, overlapping narratives, memorable characters, and surprising guest turns from well-known actors playing against type, the films displayed a lot of toxic masculinity but tempered by shafts of unexpected humor. In short, they were films that men loved, but passed as date films as the ladies could enjoy them as well.
And then, following films such as Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and RocknRolla, he married the Madonna, spread his wings and directed films that while at times enjoyable, strayed from the cinema DNA he had made his name with. The Sherlock Holmes franchise, Man from UNCLE, and Aladdin—Ritchie’s core following was wondering where he had ‘disappeared’ to. And that’s why his new film The Gentlemen has been enjoying a very warm reception. In a very strong sense, it’s a return to the territory he had staked for his very own.
An opening vignette establishes we’re in the world of sunny London and traditional pubs, but one where contract killings in the middle of the day can occur. Then the story kicks off with a scandal PI named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) pitching his film script to the lieutenant of a crime boss. The claim being that the script is actually a true to life recounting of the boss’ recent activities. Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) was an Oxford Rhodes scholar—smart, but poor—who came from America but turned to peddling weed, and rapidly established his own illegal substances empire in England. Said lieutenant Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) plays along as Fletcher attempts to extort Mickey.
A parallel narrative has Mickey trying to unload his whole operations to Matthew (Jeremy Strong), while Dry Eye (Henry Golding) wants his own slice of the action and employs the ‘boys’ of Coach (Colin Farrell). In the midst of all this stands Mickey’s wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), the lone female central character but with enough balls to take the place of any of the ‘tough guys’.
You still with me? Well, that is the essence of being in a Ritchie film, where so much is happening simultaneously. It’s how all these narratives weave back and forth, intersect and finally unite, that makes Ritchie territory such a satisfying journey into the dark side of the everyday life of the English crime world. And there’s the eccentric and colorful cast of characters to absorb, sit back, and enjoy.
It’s how all these narratives weave back and forth, intersect and finally unite, that makes Ritchie territory such a satisfying journey into the dark side of the everyday life of the English crime world.
My personal favorites in this film, with the cast seeming to enjoy themselves immensely would be Hugh Grant as Fletcher, and Colin Farrell as Coach. Far from the urbane sophisticate Grant is often asked to portray, this Fletcher has a very common English accent, is gay, and a slimeball. As for Farrell, his portrayal of Coach is a tracksuited, talking machine that takes everything in the world with poker-faced nonchalance and acceptance. Both are hilarious in different ways, and one can only guess at the inspirations they drew from to create these vivid characters.
If there is a drawback to The Gentlemen, it would be that this seems like too familiar Ritchie territory—fun while it’s happening and unfolding, but forgotten the moment the movie ends. The engaging freshness of Lock and Snatch are long gone. But then again, for fans, just being back in this familiar territory is more than enough. And for the younger audience who only know Ritchie from Sherlock or Aladdin, this should be an eye opener.
The Gentlemen opens in cinemas on Wednesday, February 5.
Lead photos from Rotten Tomatoes