Have a blast
There are many reasons to happily hop to your local cinema for a showing of Guy Ritchie’s return to gangster comedy, The Gentlemen.
Chief reason is the cast, led by Matthew McConaughey and an extremely amusing Hugh Grant. Throw in Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery and Eddie Marsen, all in top form, and you're talking about what'll probably be one of the best casts of the 2020—and it's only January.
Also, if you're a big fan of weed, this movie might be your bag.
The film, directed and co-written by Ritchie, isn't an amazing piece of screenwriting. It feels like the other films Ritchie contributed to the gangster comedy drama (Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), in that it has zippy dialogue and a fairly routine mystery at its core. But it's also a lot of fun, from start to finish, and you will forgive it its familiarities and foibles.
McConaughey is at his best as Mickey Pearson, a pot gangster who has built a large illegal weed empire as that particular plant seems headed for legalization. He's toying with getting out, offering his empire to Matthew (Jeremy Strong) for a tidy, yet semi-reasonable sum. Wife Rosalind (Dockery), a shrewd businessperson, is fine with him retiring, as long as it doesn't mean he will always be hanging around, bothering her while she's trying to get stuff done.
Bodies start piling up. Mickey's farms are getting raided, and somebody in the cast is responsible. That includes Farrell as Coach, a local boxing trainer who has shrewdly constructed a little side game involving street thugs. Ray (Hunnam), Mickey's right hand man, seems loyal but, hey, maybe he's looking to move ahead in the crime world. Lord George (Tom Wu) and Dry Eye (Henry Golding) have the motive to screw Mickey over because, like Matthew, they want his empire.
Then there's private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant), who has been following everybody around, gathering evidence to blackmail Mickey while writing a screenplay based on the whole mess. Fletcher, in what counts as a framing device, tells Ray his observations throughout the film, and the action plays out along with his storytelling.
Grant gets a chance to go full sleaze in this movie, and it becomes him. Bearded, bespectacled, and going full cockney accent, he's a crack up, and one of the only real reasons to call this movie any kind of comedy. McConaughey isn't a laugh riot here, with his role calling on a combination of his laidback strengths with flashes of his brilliant raging mode. I believe this movie might contain two of my favorite ever McConaughey raging moments.
Farrell, starting with In Bruges, moved into my “favorite actors” file and has managed to stay there. His Coach actually feels like an offshoot of his In Bruges persona, with, perhaps, a dash more bravado. His role is small, but he makes the most of all his minutes.
Everything plays out in a way that's not surprising at all, so if you go to The Gentlemen looking to judge it on the basis of its mystery contents, you might find yourself disappointed. It's nothing extraordinary on that front. It's not bad on that front either, just nothing all too memorable or shocking. When everything is revealed, the results are slightly ho-hum. That doesn't prevent the film from being an overall good time.
The Gentlemen provides a good chance to see a cast having a blast, and to see Ritchie playing in the sandbox that suits him after a recent slump that included dreck like Aladdin and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He's definitely more at home with the snappy, profane dialogue and comic violence over magic carpets and blue genies.