The Gentlemen Review: Ritchie’s return to form is strongly stylized and a lot of fun
Writer/director Guy Ritchie has made quite a career in proving himself to be quite the talented creator of British gangster films and even a great adapter of the legendary story of Sherlock Holmes. Last year, Ritchie went a little out of his element directing Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin and it definitely felt like Ritchie was a little out of his element. Now with a new year, Ritchie makes his return to the British gangster genre he loves so much with The Gentlemen and it’s quite a ride.
The film is essentially a British gangster “whodunit” as it follows a battle of wits between Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a scummy and sly reporter, and Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), the right-hand man to one of Britain’s most dominant drug lords – Mickey (Matthew McConaughey). Fletcher says he has some information on who’s looking to take Mickey’s empire, but Raymond simply isn’t buying into his antics and B.S. So, as Fletcher goes over all of the heroes and zeroes that are playing a part in the undermining of Mickey’s empire, a battle for power ensues in the background that could leave them all on the wrong end of a gun.
If The Gentlemen has anything going for it, it’s definitely its character and personality that Ritchie instills. The second Fletcher and Raymond’s battle of wits begins, you’re not only hooked onto the two great performances Grant and Hunnam give, but the style and mystery that comes with Fletcher divulging into what he knows. Fletcher’s over-the-top storytelling is an absolute blast and, as he says, it’s definitely of a cinema caliber. From how he’s constantly trying to make things over-dramatic to him being distracted by all of the fancy things that Raymond has, Fletcher is such a fun storyteller and its in huge part to Grant’s incredible performance. There’s even a great moment where he makes Raymond act out a conversation he transcribed for him and it’s absolutely hilarious. Even when Raymond jumps in to correct the facts in Fletcher’s story, it adds a whole new level to the story and the way Hunnam shows his annoyance with, yet sort of respect for, is genuinely funny. Honestly, Hunnam and Grant give career-best performances here and every time they pop back into the story together, it’s just pure magic.
Outside of Fletcher and Raymond, the rest of the cast is just as phenomenal as they each give off their own energy and personality that brings out the film’s use of rivalries and polar opposite personalities to create a thrilling narrative. There’s a battle of youth vs. experience through most of the characters as Mickey deals with a young criminal on the rise named Dry Eyes (Henry Golding) trying to take over his empire through force. Every move that Dry Eyes makes is in an effort to assert his dominance and take out the old regime that doesn’t want to acknowledge his existence. It’s a conflict that’s entertaining to watch, especially because McConaughey and Golding are dynamite on-screen together, and it’s just a small part of the film’s major themes about pride and power.
There’s also some great sub-plots and side stories that weave throughout Fletcher’s story that involves his boss Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), who’s out to ruin Mickey with the info that Fletcher found, and Coach (Colin Farrell), a local boxing coach that becomes ensnared into Mickey’s affairs when his boys get caught messing with one of his labs. Farrell is as great as usual and boasts a likable confidence and mentality that will easily make him a fan favorite. Not to mention, he shares a scene with Marsan later in the film that’s gruesomely hilarious and one that viewers won’t forget. Michelle Dockery also puts in a solid performance as Mickey’s confidence and femme fatale wife, but I never felt like the film utilizes her as well as other characters. She’s kind of just used as an object and a direct line for everyone to mess with Mickey. She definitely shows that she can easily hold her own, but she ends up being under-utilized compared to everyone else. I just wished she had more substance to her and the same can be said about the story as a whole.
For all of the strong storytelling and characters that Ritchie brings with The Gentlemen, it’s still a pretty standard fair whodunit that kind of crumbles at the end. Throughout the film, the big mystery that keeps you invested the whole way through is who is actually trying to screw over Mickey and why. While the film does cleverly surprise viewers with the twists and turns that happen throughout Fletcher’s story, it ends on a bit of lackluster note. The reveal of who and why everything has happened feels a little forced and lacks the emotional resolution because of how random it feels. I will say that the insanity that follows the reveal is absolutely incredible and was so good that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ritchie could have a sequel possibly up his sleeve.
Honestly, the big pull, for me, in wanting to see a sequel or at least more like this from Ritchie is the great dialogue and direction that he brings here. The snappiness keeps you hooked on every line and the personalities of each character are brought out even further through the great dialogue. With Ritchie being back in his British gangster element, to give strong direction and makes each performance and character feel unique. He also makes it so unapologetically stylish and an homage to a genre he loves that its hard not to see the film as a true return to form for Ritchie. Admittedly, the overuse of crime jargon can make viewers feel a little lost in what’s happening at times. However, it’s also one of the biggest reasons the humor and personalities are so strong, so it’s hard to completely take it away.
The Gentlemen is a strong return for Ritchie and is just an excellently acted, strongly stylized, and incredibly humorous British crime caper in general. Albeit the story and certain elements could’ve used a bit more of a punch-up to make the film a little more unique, but, overall, I had a blast seeing Ritchie find his comfort zone again. It’s definitely an early favorite of mine and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that there could be more for The Gentlemen in the future.