Writer/director Guy Ritchie returns to his roots as a filmmaker in his latest endeavor, The Gentlemen. The film tells the tale of a gangster and his marijuana business along with a myriad of people scheming to take his empire from him. If you’re a Guy Ritchie fan, chances are you notice the similarities between this and the film that made him famous: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
Fortunately, The Gentlemen marks a return to form for Ritchie. This goes up to and including the ensemble cast. To name a few, the insanely talented cast features the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, and Colin Farrell. The one who steals the show, though, is Hugh Grant as Fletcher. He is a private investigator type at the heart of the story. Grant’s performance is vivid and hilarious. It is worth watching The Gentlemen for Hugh Grant’s performance alone. Another part of the ensemble that works so well is Colin Farrell as Coach, a jumpsuit wearing, fast-talking gangster. His role is limited but enjoyable and fun.
In spite of this stacked cast, Ritchie tells this story through the perspective of Grant’s character. It is something of an unreliable narrator trope that adds to the craziness of The Gentlemen. The premise centers around Fletcher telling the story to Ray (Hunnam), telling it in the form of a script he wrote based on the experience and story of Mickey Pearson (McConaughey).
From this description, you can see that Ritchie chooses an extremely interesting way to tell this story. The direction is sharp and witty, and the material has some hidden depth. Moreover, The Gentlemen deals with themes of class separation and media representation. But that doesn’t work 100% of the time. In fact, the story moves at a very fast pace. Sometimes, too fast to acknowledge these themes. Nevertheless, the quick-witted humor and hilarious storytelling managed to win over myself and the audience I was with.
The unreliable narration and storytelling from Fletcher are what stuck with me the most. Ritchie uses it to the best of his ability. There is some obvious embellishment here and there within Fletcher’s telling of the story. There is even some backtracking and change of view as well. It’s a creative storytelling technique that works to The Gentlemen’s favor. The non-linear format keeps the audience guessing at all times. There is a domino effect to Pearson’s decision regarding his criminal empire that ripples into the storylines of the ensemble film.
Golding as Dry Eye is also a memorable part of the ensemble. Playing the antagonist to Pearson, he tries to throw every possible curveball imaginable to Pearson’s plans for his empire. Golding portrays the antagonist excellently. As a sort of character without a moral code, he is ready to steal power wherever he can.
Guy Ritchie’s films are practically a subgenre of their own. He meshes different types of story tropes and fast editing to deliver entertaining films, and the same is true here. There are moments where the humor can fall flat, but that is expected when a film is filled to the brim with this much wit. The editing can also be a bit too fast for its own good. Certain cuts in the film can be jarring to the pace of the story. On top of that, there are certain subplots and story beats that don’t go anywhere in the larger narrative. Instead of investing and developing the ensemble it already has, The Gentlemen sometimes gets distracted with the fun it is having on these side plots.
Overall, though, The Gentlemen is a fun enough ride. Thanks to its talented ensemble and witty script, the film manages to downplay its pacing issues. It is a sign of a return to form for Guy Ritchie, who made his name with a debut feature in the same genre and vein of The Gentlemen. Despite not exploring the thematic depth that is possible from this screenplay, the film is nonetheless an entertaining enough time at the movies. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Grade – 7/10
The Gentlemen releases in theaters January 24th, 2020, and stars Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, and Michelle Dockery.