“The Gentlemen” is the most recent addition to the canon of British gangster/caper films that made Guy Ritchie a household name, beginning way back in 1999 with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and continuing through all the way until 2008 with Ritchie’s “RockNRolla”. Now Ritchie returns back to his caper/crime movie sensibilities for the first time in over a decade. Ritchie went on to to direct many studio films that were very hit-or-miss–films like “Sherlock Holmes”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”, the disastrous “King Arthur”, and most recently “Aladdin”. “The Gentlemen” is certainly a return to form for Ritchie; the ghastly sense of dark humor is found along with crime noir movie tropes and the film is filled with clever twists, sharply written dialogue, and a first-rate memorable cast. The greatest virtue to the film is that it’s pure caper movie exuberance. Sure, it’s a little dizzying with all the twists and turns, and it’s also a little gory, but “The Gentleman” triumphs with its wickedly funny humor.
Not only does Ritchie return to what he does best, he also recaptures the spirit from the 1990s crime genre dark comedies that Quentin Tarantino revived in that era that began with “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”, both films inspiring countless others during that time period. “The Gentlemen” indeed feels like a throwback to that 90s crime genre spirit as the film offers an overtly convoluted plot that comes together supremely well in the end. We also get repugnant but likable protagonists; cutthroat savagery and double crosses that throws you way off guard—but it admirably allows the viewer to catch up with what’s going on. Best of all is the film’s uproariously funny dark humor that makes it the pitch-perfect hangout type of movie.
Matthew McConaughey continues his impressive streak by playing Mickey, an American marijuana drug lord in London who leads a refined crime syndicate that is worth $400 million. Fellow American billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong, of HBO’s “Succession”) wants to buy up Mickey’s network. As flashbacks unravel we learn that a paparazzo named Fletcher (Hugh Grant hamming it up to perfection) is attempting to swindle Mickey’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) into giving him $20 million dollars for a screenplay that holds all the information that Fletcher knows about all the chaotic events that just unfolded.
Grant’s character, Fletcher, is a true riot here. He begins the story off by stating the chronicle of what he knows is meant for the movies, and the characters are also too big for the screen. Ritchie gives each member of his ensemble cast truly memorable dialogue and moments to shine. McConaughey channels his “Killer Joe” sinister and dark charisma while never losing sight of his likable charm. We truly buy him as this character, and his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), who runs an all-female mechanic shop, gets plenty of great moments too. But it’s the onscreen charisma of Grant and Colin Farrell that truly stands out here. Farrell plays a low-key brawler who teaches young hoodlums how to fight and fend for themselves, though they end up banding together to commit burglary and other crimes. Each of the exchanges here are well-written and handled with Ritchie’s signature fervor.
There are numerous twists and turns that unravel and unfold throughout the course of the film, and this is common for Ritchie. Yet most of Ritchie’s caper films in the past were more about plot and little about character. “The Gentleman” takes its time to develop each of the characters so that it allows the viewer to be equally drawn to each one. Ritchie has surrounded his ensemble cast with a group of truly accomplished actors. Edie Marson is hot-tempered. Henry Golding is diabolical. Farrell is scrappy and bawdy. Hugh Grant’s calculated and cunning performance is first-rate, never before has he been this rambunctious.
Ritchie tugs the audience back and forth, perhaps a little too much with unrestrained twists and turns that might come off as smug, but each one is very unpredictable and they always win you over with their clever surprises, but it’s Ritchie having fun by toying with the audience, while having fun behind the camera, that certainly shows in the final product. Though one of the flaws pf the film is that it’s somewhat difficult to navigate all the plot details (this film will certainly require a repeat viewing to piece every character and thread together), the excellent ensemble cast and meaty writing surely pushes the film forward into a caper genre success. The special appeal of “The Gentleman” evolves from all the personalities in the cast along with its efficient narrative and sharp writing. Guy Ritchie’s visual flair seems to be his most confident since “Revolver”, and this almost feels like Ritchie’s own crime movie opus that proves the gangster genre can still be exciting, fun, and slick despite what Martin Scorsese just did with the muted and sorrowful “The Irishman”.