The Gentlemen review: Worryingly entertaining
Ivan Radford | On 14, May 2020
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam
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Guy Ritchie has come a long way since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a crime thriller that was so bursting with energy that it inspired a generation of knock-off efforts from other filmmakers keen to capture that Cool Britannia gangster vibe. Since then, Ritchie has graduated to Hollywood outings Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, Game of Shadows, Disney’s Aladdin and his unsung masterpiece, The Man from UNCLE.
Throughout, he has retained his knack for camaraderie and banter (pronounced without the “t”, obvs), as well as his stylish flourishes. That remains true as he brings us The Gentlemen, a film that sees him return to the gangster genre that first broke his career. In what appears to be a personal rebound from his larger commercial outings, he nonetheless brings a star-studded cast with him, with Matthew McConaughey playing Mickey Pearson, an American in London with a lucrative weed business. When he decides to sell up, he finds himself surrounded by shady figures all looking to steal a slice of his empire.
McConaughey is joined by Jeremy Strong, fresh from Succession, in a mincing, menacing role, and Charlie Hunnam as Raymond, an enforcer who has a way with words. Hunnam is something of a revelation here, having a huge amount of fun with his interesting, unpredictable role, but Hugh Grant is undoubtedly the main attraction. He swans through the scenes as a slimeball journalist Fletcher, who is tasked by a bitter editor (Eddie Marsan) to investigate Mickey’s links to a royal type. He has, naturally, written up his findings as a screenplay, which he proceeds to pitch to Raymond.
That self-aware device is where The Gentlemen both succeeds and threatens to shoot itself in the foot, as Grant’s playful narrator stops, starts and rewinds the tale as he goes. It means there’s little time to register Colin Farrell doing understated work as the trainer of a group of young thugs, or admire Henry Golding getting the chance to embrace his villainous side. It also means that things risk teetering into Seven Psychopaths territory, as Ritchie’s indulgent screenplay is all too pleased with its own ability to include politically incorrect jokes while also commenting on how politically incorrect they are.
Such dubious material is unnecessary, though, as Ritchie’s self-aware storytelling is garishly impressive in its own right; Ritchie’s return to the gangster genre comes with a swaggering confidence and fresh wit that come from those years of added experience. Does that justify some of The Gentlemen’s darker moments? No, but a worryingly funny cast and an often surprising narrative make this a knowingly entertaining ride nonetheless.
The Gentlemen is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.