Writer and director Guy Ritchie takes a break from a string of big budget films, to go back to his roots with the British gangster flick “The Gentlemen”. Ritchie and his spot on A-list cast delivers a hilarious, clever, sharp and quickly paced crime comedy. “The Gentlemen” rises to the top of Guy Ritchie’s talents as a writer and director. It’s the first film of 2020 that earns the title of brilliance. This is Guy Ritchie at the top of his game making a movie that just bleeds cool.
There are two versions of Guy Ritchie that we know as a filmmaker….There is British gangster Guy Ritchie, who got his name recognized with his witty and cleverly sharp “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch” and the underrated better than given credit for “Rock N Rolla”. Then there is the studio big budgeted Guy Ritchie who has been hitting box office records with “Sherlock Holmes”, “The Legend Of King Arthur” and “Aladdin”. Ritchie was closest to bringing his two worlds together with his under appreciated “The Man From Uncle”.
“The Gentlemen” is Ritchie’s full fire on all cylinders return to the early, R-rated career that formed Ritchie’s filmmaking career. “The Gentlemen” is funny, sharp, clever, witty and frenetic as his earlier gangster classics. It’s right up there as one of Ritchie’s finest and best work, deserving equal high praise to “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”.
Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Pearson an American expat who came from big ol’ Texas beginnings to becoming the marijuana crime boss of Great Britain. Mickey can don a tux and be dapper at any upperclass dinner party, but if you cross him…he’ll put a clip in you with no hesitation or have one of his goons cut you open. When Mickey is challenged or backed into a corner, McConaughey can effortlessly shift gears and become chillingly convincing as a killer.
Mickey’s empire includes production and distribution, but he wants to sell the entire operation so he can enjoy the good life with his tough as nails wife Rosalind (played by Michelle Dockery from “Downton Abbey”). Mickey’s empire sets off greedy hungry money, power grabs and attempted mob-style hits and betrayals.
Hugh Grant sheds his once known romantic comedy persona to play Fletcher. A seedy and sleazy private eye who acts as a narrator for the story, in the guise of pitching a screenplay he’s written based on the “real-life” underworld events he has witnessed and chronicled. Fletcher has what he believes is an airtight plan to blackmail Mickey to the tune of 20 million pounds. He makes his case to Guy Ritchie’s “The Legend Of King Arthur” star Charlie Hunnam’s Ray, who is Mickey’s right-hand man. Ray is sophisticated and has taste but like Mickey when he needs to pull the trigger on someone, he won’t find any hesitation.
The performances from the talented A-list roster of actors are all spot on. Everyone has multiple showcase of moments and the chance to display their spot-on comedic timing. Joining the cast is Jeremy Strong who teamed up with McConaughey last year in the thriller “Serenity”. Strong plays a wealthy businessman with a keen interest in buying up Mickey’s whole operation. Henry Golding from “Crazy Rich Asians” is young power hungry gangster “Dry Eye”, who uses jungle analogies before laying down the kill.
And finally, we meet Colin Farrell’s “Coach”, who runs a boxing gym and is a mentor to the troubled kids of his neighborhood. Coach says he isn’t a gangster but when he has to lay down the line and take care of things, he will do so. A lot of the joy that comes out of watching “The Gentlemen” is watching the cast who genuinely look like they are having a hell of a good time and their enthusiasm for their roles shines through. All the stars throughout the film bring their best A-game and it just makes for an even more enjoyable experience for the audience.
“The Gentlemen” reminded me how great of a writer Guy Ritchie is and how he and Quentin Tarantino are two of the best writers who have a keen sense of sharp wit, sharp dialogue, brilliant shock moments and cinematic in-jokes. This is the best of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino all rolled into one. It’s classic Guy Ritchie and it has his fingerprints all over it as he wrote, directed and produced it, you should expect nothing else.
Ritchie also keeps the film rolling along by structuring the narrative in a back and forth between multiple storylines structure. Where it initially is a bit confusing in that classic Guy Ritchie style, to finding itself settling down (but never losing it’s momentum) and paying off big time in the climax that pulls everything together.
It’s nice to see that even though Ritchie has gone Hollywood, his heart still seems to be with his roots. This is Guy Ritchie at the top of his game making a movie that just bleeds cool.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2☆ (4 & 1/2 out of 5)