Guy Ritchie had a fantastic early career. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch are both as outrageous as they are entertaining. Even his take on Sherlock Holmes was refreshing. His more recent films have been a bit more grounded, or restricted by studio mandates, but he's back in trademark Guy Ritchie form with his latest film, The Gentlemen.
Taking a page out of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Gentlemen is classic Guy Ritchie in every way imaginable. The story is told through the unique perspective of reporting sleuth, Fletcher (Hugh Grant), as he tries to extort money from Ray (Charlie Hunnam). Throughout the film we see various exploits from Ray and his boss, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). These two are basically drug dealers of the British variety (even though Pearson spent his youth in America) and things quickly get crazy.
In typical drug dealer fashion, there's double crossing, violence and intimidation throughout, but everything plays out in the stylized vision of Guy Ritchie, with an extremely sharp and witty script. Everyone in the film is deadly serious, while at the same time having a ball playing these characters. Again, if you've seen Guy Ritchie's earlier work you should have a good idea of how The Gentlemen plays out.
As the film progresses, more characters are introduced, all of which add to the brilliant chaos unfolding before your eyes. Matthew (Jeremy Strong) is a formidable adversary for Pearson, while Coach (Colin Farrell) adds a straight-faced, yet twisted sense of humor for a special splash of additional comic relief. Dry Eye finally gives Henry Golding a fun character to play, and while he seems the most rigid member of the cast, he's still very much having fun with the role.
Charlie Hunnam's stoic portrayal of Ray, coupled with McConaughey's trademark relaxed but deadly serious acting prowess really drive home The Gentlemen. The entire ensemble cast works seamlessly with Ritchie's script, providing one of the most entertaining films in recent memory.
If you missed out on Guy Ritchie's earlier work, you are in for a treat. If you're familiar, this is a much desired return to form for the Aladdin director. We don't get a lot of original scripts these days, but ending 2019 with Knives Out and kicking off 2020 with The Gentlemen is a great one-two punch of originality. It's a shame this gem of a film is left with a January release (where many films go to die). It could have easily flourished with a March or November release date.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
The Gentlemen - Details
Plot: Mickey Pearson is an American expatriate who became rich by building a marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he's looking to cash out of the business, it soon triggers an array of plots and schemes from those who want his fortune.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery
Runtime: 1 Hour, 53 Minutes