After the release of the colourful and very Disney-ey Aladdin last year, it looked for a small moment that Guy Richie had transformed as a filmmaker. No more was he making films about uber machismo gangsters throwing curses and racial slurs galore in Tarantino-esque fashion. Indeed, it seemed he had lost what made his name. Enter The Gentlemen, also known as a cocktail of all things Guy Richie, and a return to the style that produced his most well known hits Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
Like these two mega hits, The Gentlemen is defined by its male-dominated ensemble. Mickey Pearson is an American born Marijuana kingpin, who curries favour with aristocratic families in order to house his farms on their estates. When he decides to retire with his wife (Michelle Dockery in a the least Downton role possible), chaos ensues as competing factions fight to gain control of this lucrative market.
Ritchie’s writing is always vibrant to say the least, and this film is no exception. Swearing is the order of the day and “locker room” banter is on fully display. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the delightfully venomous exchanges between Consigliere Ray (Charlie Hunnam, who has never been better) and Fletcher (Hugh Grant), the tabloid reporter who acts as the quasi-narrator of the piece. Grant especially subverts his posh-boy images to deliver a hilariously exaggerated cockney that would make Dick Van Dyke swoon. The other notable standout is Colin Farrell’s “Coach”, a dojo owner who circles the plot alongside his gang of fighters. There’s a lot of fun to be had in these admittedly ridiculous roles, and the actors relish in it, shouting screaming and fighting their way through twist after twist.
The film does have a tendency to enter the realm of convoluted plotting however, and this is evident in both the first and last acts. The framing device of Fletcher telling his unreliable narrative to Ray, while fun for Grant’s likability, results in a messy beginning, where one spends more time discerning who anyone is or when anything is happening. It would have been better for Ritchie to frame the narrative in a linear manner. There are already too many characters to introduce, let alone different timelines and conflicting accounts. The result is stylised but messy, a criticism found in other action films of the last few years, namely Atomic Blonde. The final act is also a downright mess, taking narrative turn after narrative turn, only to then deliver a downright anticlimax, before fizzling out in a rather unsatisfying manner. It’s a shame, as the meat of the story really exemplified the quirks of all the characters. Ritchie arguably trades this at the end for cheap “gotcha” moments.
The Gentlemen is definitely a lot of fun, and something I can’t help but recommend. The characters are interesting enough to sustain for 2 hours and the dialogue is snappy and witty. If only the plot wasn’t so messy.
6.5/10- One half style and wit, the other convolution and confusion, The Gentlemen is an erratic picture, but one worth the visit.