The Gentlemen is writer/director Guy Ritchie’s big return to the British crime genre after a twelve-year hiatus and he seems a bit rusty.
Matthew McConaughey feels slightly miscast in the role of Mickey, an American-born drug kingpin that starts selling drugs at Oxford and eventually building an empire by coaxing the British upper class to allow him to grow pot on their estates to keep it hidden from authorities and the competition.
This must have been something Guy dreamed up during his own time at posh schools growing up alongside fellow children of the British aristocracy (not unlike former collaborator Matthew Vaughn).
Mickey is now seeking to sell-off his marijuana empire for a hefty price to Jeremy Strong’s Matthew, a fellow American, with the promise when pot goes legal in the United Kingdom the operation could be converted into a legitimate business and increase it’s value tenfold.
I think Mickey might have been a role better suited for a character actor like Timothy Olyphant (Justified, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood) as all I see with Matthew is Matthew. Then again, they likely needed a “name”. Something that has never really been a driving force for Ritchie in the past since he’s known for helping discover up-and-coming actors like Jason Statham, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy giving them meaty roles.
It’s possible that my issues with Mickey might be more down to the direction and how he was written in the script.
The back and forth chatter filled with slang is on full display and something audiences expect from Ritchie at this point. Most of it feels natural as the banter between Hugh Grant’s slimeball Fletcher and Charlie Hunnam’s Ray, a fixer for Mickey’s outfit, works well.
Hugh Grant might have the best performance in the film as the blackmailing private investor Fletcher. Grant certainly plays against type and reuniting with Ritchie after a supporting role in his spy flick The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which gets a nice nod towards the end.
Fletcher, for the most part, is the narrator of the film and is attempting to pitch to Hunnam’s Raymond why their criminal firm should pay him £20,000,000 after uncovering damming information on the crew and threatens to release it to the tabloids, who already are gunning for Mickey’s head. The character is a highlight when other actors feel like they’re on autopilot, Grant is certainly acting here.
Hunnam’s Ray is as basic as it gets he’s a fixer and it’s typically what you’d expect from Charlie and hardly a memorable performance, though I dug his outfits throughout the film. He plays somewhat as a counter to Grant’s Fletcher but isn’t given much to work with via the script, just like with a few other characters.
Crazy Rich Asians standout Henry Golding plays rival gangster Dry Eye, who is attempting to also purchase Mickey’s business and doesn’t seem to want to take no as an answer. The character doesn’t seem to be flushed-out as much as you would expect for someone being as lined up the big-bad and we really don’t see enough of his motivations until later in the film which is certainly a disservice because he lacks genuine intimidation, something I miss from his previous villains like Alan Ford’s Brick Top from Snatch.
Sadly, Michelle Dockery’s Rosalind is barely in the film and might have something to do with her replacing Kate Beckinsale last-minute and the role possibly being scaled back a bit. Michelle isn’t terrible but making an assessment of her acting is tough given her limited screen time and outside of standoff sequence which had a sloppy ending due to the writing.
Female characters getting the short stick has been a problem with the Ritchie gangster films, Thandie Newton was previously underused in RocknRolla too.
Another highlight is the costuming, I normally wouldn’t bring that up but there were a heap of original tracksuits created by costume designer Michael Wilkinson for Colin Farrell’s Coach and his team of knuckleheads that could have been taken from Eggsy’s private collection in some unseen Kingsman installment and look comfortable as hell, too bad they’re not real.
Majority of the characters have slick outfits and is certainly noticeable.
Speaking of Colin Farrell, it’s nice to hear him use an Irish accent and like Hugh Grant is allowed to inhabit the character giving Coach a bit more life than another actor may have.
The action seems to be on par with other Ritchie movies and while there are some silly scenes, most of it works.
Some of the negatives about the flick include a tasteless attempted sexual assault scene that felt oddly out of place alongside flashes of racism that really didn’t need to be in the movie, rolled my eyes when this stuff showed up as it felt forced and unnatural.
Other times when McConaughey attempts a patter it feels slightly unnatural and robotic his affected accent also comes off as weird character choice.
Of course, Ritchie leaves room at the end for sequels, but it remains to be seen as the film made $117.7 million globally on a production budget of $22 million.
The script comes off more like a pilot episode of a series rather than a feature film and the immaturity of RocknRolla returns. For whatever reason, the slick style of Ritchie’s previous movies and his signature fast-paced editing isn’t really here. It’s normal fodder for writer/director Guy Ritchie as there is some backstabbing going on within the story echoing both Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake and his previous flick RocknRolla (we’re still waiting on that sequel Ritchie).
Ultimately, the plot feels a little basic despite the blackmailing angle.
This certainly isn’t the worst Guy Ritchie outing those titleholders remain to be the perplexing Revolver starring Jason Statham and the misguided Swept Away starring his ex-wife Madonna. While we’ve seen better from him in the past and it was slightly disappointing that the script didn’t match the acting talent involved, I did enjoy The Gentlemen but there is much room for improvement.
The Gentlemen is now available on Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, and Fandango Now.