Written by: Matt Patti
The Gentlemen (Guy Ritchie, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
Writer-Director Guy Ritchie’s latest endeavor, The Gentlemen, is a flavorful, in-your-face action comedy told from a unique lens. This film pulls no punches as both the vulgar comedy and the bloody action sequences contribute to a rambunctious, flaunty, Tarantino-like wild ride with plenty of twists and turns. However, between the flashy action sequences and countless expletives, there lies an interesting story told in an interesting way, with great dialogue and some great performances.
Our story centers around drug lord Mickey Pearson, played by Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). Mickey is the de facto weed lord of England, and has a large empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, he is journeying into the later years of his life, and is looking to retire with his beautiful yet equally intimidating wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey), who also helps run the business. So, Mickey attempts to sell off the business to someone he can trust for a hefty but reasonable price. However, once a deal is finally in the works, disaster strikes as one of Mickey’s farms is raided, less trustworthy buyers attempt to bid for his business, and an unexpected enemy makes their presence known.
When I state that the film is presented in a unique way, I mean it is told as if it were a screenplay being discussed by two characters. You’d think, based on my description, that Mickey is the main character of this story, but I’d argue he’s not. He’s an important part, for sure. But the majority of the screen time is spent with two other characters: Mickey’s right-hand man, Ray (Charlie Hunnam, FX’s Sons of Anarchy) and a dirty private detective, Fletcher (Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins).
The film begins with Fletcher visiting Ray late at night with a number of items, including a screenplay he wrote. Fletcher then begins to tell Ray all he knows about Mickey and his empire, and about those trying to sabotage him, demanding payment in return for the information. He does this all as if he were pitching a screenplay to a studio, citing the protagonist as Mickey, naming antagonists, and revealing climaxes of the story. This plays out for the majority of the film. At first, I hated the format, as the constant switching back and forth between events that happened in the past and those two talking over a glass of whiskey was a bit too confusing and loaded with exposition. However, the structure grew on me, the banter between Fletcher and Ray entertaining, if a bit awkward.
Outside of the slightly baffling first 30-40 minutes, the rest of the film was highly entertaining with well-written dialogue, some humorous yet tense action scenes, and a bevy of great performances, minus one annoying, uninteresting character that was unfortunately prevalent in the story, with some awful line delivery that completely took me out of the movie. The film also contained some very strange, unnecessary jokes that border on being a bit offensive. I can certainly see if some people are offended by some of them, and I found them completely pointless, but thankfully there are only one or two instances of these ridiculous jokes.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Gentlemen after the initial confusion and long, expositional scene. It is a fun, exhilarating, bold and brash action comedy that catches you off guard at many points. The dialogue is intriguing, the writing is clever, most of the characters are interesting, and the cinematography, editing, and sound design are top-notch. The unique way the story is told is confusing at first but grows on you, and when I got the hang of it and accepted it, I could really sit back and enjoy the movie.