Directed By Guy Ritchie
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant
The Plot – The film follows American expat Mickey Pearson (McConaughey) who built a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business forever it triggers plots, schemes, bribery and blackmail in an attempt to steal his domain out from under him.
Rated R for violence, adult language throughout, sexual references and drug content
– Guy’s grasp. This is a refreshing return to form for Ritchie, who after spending his past few years on out-of-his-element failures like “Aladdin”, and “King Arthur”, returns to the scene of comedy shoot-em-ups with a stylistic firecracker. Aside from the editing feeling more reserved in artistic maturity, and the action being presented in clear definition, it’s Guy’s articulation towards atmosphere that marries the worlds of action and comedy respectively, refusing to allow one’s presence to diminish the power of the other. The deliveries, both physical and audible, are brash, but beyond that they better help capture the stakes and personalities of a series of morally ambiguous characters, who are a bunch of combustible elements simmering together as one. This is where Guy feels most comfortable, and while “The Gentlemen” falls just shy of “Snatch”, Ritchie’s constant turning of the tables instills endless indulgence for where these characters will eventually end up.
– Unique device. In seeing the trailers, I didn’t expect this film to be told through the eyes of a duo of unreliable narrators, but what this does is allow every exposition plunge being given to us to preserve much of the mystery that the film’s first half seems to center around. A very early surprise during the film’s opening sequence sets the stage for the who and the why of the plot’s mystery, and builds towards this inevitable moment by rewinding to every relationship interaction between questionable characters before this degree of permanence took shape. Usually, films that give away the ending first ruin a great degree of interest towards my investment into the rest of the film, but Ritchie elaborates that there’s something much deeper at play here, and gives away the sizzle without the steak that nourishes us in the form of a hearty third act that harvest much uncertainty.
– Meaningful violence. To take a page from the great Quentin Tarantino’s book, Ritchie too saves the red for the moments when it matters the most, scattering them in the narrative like oil spikes that will explode once the ground around them receives the proper penetration. The elements themselves are gnarishly sudden, challenging audiences to reflect on them for a second longer because of how spontaneous they turned the tables within the context of the scene. As for the violence itself, it ranges between gruesomely barbaric to rivitingly imaginative. While not Ritchie’s most violent film of all, his characters seem to only use it when it’s absolutely necessary, outlining an element of maturity to their movements, which feels intelligent when you consider that these characters are constantly risking so much to their millionaire lives.
– Rare chances. What I love about the casting in this movie is that nearly every decorated name that makes up the central cast is given an opportunity by Ritchie to play against some sembelance of typecasting that have limited their scripts. Ritchie directs each of them with a balance of cool and paranoia that somehow bring out the vulnerably human side of these otherwise terrifying monsters. This is easily the most vicious that I have ever seen McConaughey, the most intelligently calculating that I’ve seen Hunnam, the first taste of evil for Henry Golding, and the most slimy for Hugh Grant. As expected, some of them have more time than others, but all of them are effectively entrancing in what the film desires from them, rounding out another collective ensemble for Ritchie’s gangster filmography, that he’s brought into his world of madness.
– Devilish dialogue. This one won’t be for everyone, but there’s something about the velocity of the Irish and Cockney accents that really grant an echoing sting to cinematic vocabulary. Is it the most challenging to write? Probably not. Ritchie’s favorite word seems to be a four-letter expletive that describes the female genatalia, and rattles it off no fewer than fifty times throughout the screenplay. But the swagger of the accent combined with the assertiveness of the deliveries challenge the audience to not hang onto every single word being conjured up. The lack of eloquence grants a naturally simplistic approach in preserving the human side of interaction, and while there are many zingers deposited as one-liner dynamite throughout the film, nothing about it ever feels like somebody else’s words. It’s a faithful approach to exposition and personality that constantly feels like Ritchie embodies the characters he creates and takes on.
– Alluring opening credits. Adding to the film’s non-stop personality, is an credit sequence to open the movie, which so obviously pays homage to Bond movies that have influenced Ritchie’s entire career. Not only is this sequence stylishly hypnotic in alluring visual symbolism, but David Rawlings’ guitar heavy track “Cumberland Gap” will surely be the unforgettable aspect, which oozes the coolness of preserved atmosphere. What’s important is the sequence is long enough to force you to pay attention to its gun-powder name reveals, but quick enough to return to the film before it becomes a chore to sit through it. The neon coloring of these scene brings forth a hypnotic aspect of green’s, red’s, and orange’s to illuminate the character profiles that accompany each name, and round out a presentation that gets you ready for the mayhem that is about to strike. Attention-stealing opening credits are something that is fortunately making a comeback in major motion pictures, especially those in crime caper movies, and the one in “The Gentlemen” may be my early favorite for the best since 2016’s “Deadpool”.
– Technical mastery. Much respect all around to the film’s production, which only enhances what works within the context of the film’s personality. On a musical front, composer Christopher Benstead doesn’t necessarily carry the most resonating of compositions, but with Filipe Botelho’s control over the sound mixing does move in motion with the dialogue of the actors. The music volume lowers quite frequently to never take away from these hilarious punchlines or meaningful threats. In addition to this, the framing of the camera work by Alan Stewart carves out meaning in nearly every shot, especially the film’s intro, which stitches together dual scenes of moving imagery to prepare us for the mystery of the next 100 minutes. In addition to this, the steady-cam decisions are brilliantly realized in action sequences that are easily depicting without losing any of the intensity of the typical shaking camera that Ritchie has been known for.
– Unnecessary scenes. There’s no need to cut anything for time. “The Gentlemen clocks in at a smooth 107 minutes that never strains nor challenges audiences engaged in the beats of the narrative. However, a couple of scenes during the second act could’ve easily been shortened or left on the cutting room floor all together for the lack of importance that eventually springs from each of them. One in particular is the rescuing of a neighbor’s daughter for Hunnam’s character, which I can interpret as being a vehicle for his ferocity being every bit as dangerous as his intelligence, but the scene is ultimately not needed, and can easily be worked around without it. In addition to this, one scene at a football game overlooks a glaring sound inconsistency that is a convenience for the development because of the script’s convenience to look past it. These are the glaring weaknesses that I would’ve definitely omitted from the finished product.
– Too many tricks. For the first 90 minutes of this film, I was on board for the many swerves that evolves from no shortage of unreliable characters. Unfortunately, this movie commits the cardinal sin of double cross movies before it, in that it attempts too many in a short period of time, which leaves its logic tumbling towards the movie’s finish line. The final ten minutes of this film twisted so much in its resolution that I had to pause the film for a minute just so my mind could catch up. It’s sad because up until that point, it preserved enough space in between twists to not only properly register it, but also so that register could maintain the strongest impact to be felt because of it. In putting too many of these moments together, especially during the moments when the scene should be wrapping up, it creates a long-winded approach to the film’s closure that overcomplicates what should otherwise be obvious.
– Socially repugnant. Without a doubt, the single biggest problem that I had for the film, as well as Ritchie’s stance as an influential filmmaker, are the moments he pauses the progression of the narrative to preach about certain aspects that don’t age well even for day one of its run in 2020. These range from harmless, like those aimed at teenagers and their social media dependency, to severely offensive, like those that blame Asians for the cocaine epidemic, racist slurs being echoed constantly towards the non-white gangsters of the movie, and homosexuality being presented as a mental deviance towards one character. All of this is probably natural free-flowing conversation for gangsters like the ones in Ritchie’s movie, but there is a level of irresponsibility that allows him to wallow in it for far longer than rightfully necessary, and it teaches us that some aspects of Guy’s profound social commentary are better left in the past where they belong.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-