The big takeaway from The Gentlemen is that it’s really been 20 years since Snatch, huh? That movie, along with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, established writer-director Guy Ritchie as name to watch. After two decades of mediocrity he returns to his roots with The Gentlemen, a chaotic crime comedy(ish) that mostly consists of a bunch of dudes talking to each other but in very British, very profane, very threatening ways. Also all the dudes are involved with crime. It’s 2020, though, so there’s also one prominent woman this time. Hashtag equality.
And because it’s 2020, the criminal activity the entire film revolves around is marijuana. Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is really good at growing and distributing it. So good, in fact, that he thinks he can sell his business for nearly half a billion dollars. But it’s a criminal organization, so maybe someone wants to buy it from him for a lot less. Or maybe someone wants to just kill him and take it. Or maybe someone just wants to kill him for funsies. Trust me when I tell you it does not matter even a little bit.
The reason it doesn’t matter? Nothing in the movie happens as it’s told to us, probably. The framing device sees a private investigator/journalist/it’s-not-100%-clear named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) chatting with Pearson’s right-hand man, Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), trying to extort him for £20 million for the information he’s telling him, and us. But he’s an unreliable narrator, and is explaining it to us in the form of a screenplay for a movie he’s written based on the events. A movie within a movie. Where breaking the fourth wall and offering meta commentary is allowed. As is lying. Which Ritchie likes to do in order to “surprise” us.
That novelty wears off after a while, although some of the meta stuff is neat enough in the moment. It’s the lying in an attempt to surprise us that gets old. You can only pull the wool over our eyes so many times before it becomes annoying. The Gentlemen wears thin midway through. Not just because of that, either. It also feels like we’ve watched this movie before. Not just from Ritchie, but from, the knockoffs we got following his first two features. It’s no longer novel and the “return” he has here is mostly just aping the memories we have of his good early films.
This has been largely negative, but The Gentlemen isn’t bad; it just feels uninspired in a way that the good Guy Ritchie Movies™ didn’t. The character work is great even if you’ll have a difficult time keeping track of names and affiliations. Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant in particular are lots of fun. The dialogue is snappy and some of it is funny. And some of the meta commentary is worth hearing.
The Gentlemen is a mediocre version of the two good Guy Ritchie Movies™ that will probably appeal to anyone who has nostalgia for those properties but also who hasn’t watched them any time recently. It’s a chaotic crime comedy with a lot of very British people swearing at and threatening each other for a good amount of two hours, all while criminal activities take place. There are a couple of Americans this time around and also one woman, which is about all the evolution that’s taken place since Snatch was released. It wears thin, but fans might get some joy out of it.
Conclusion: The Gentlemen is a mediocre version of the two good Guy Ritchie Movies™.
Recommendation: If you’re a Guy Ritchie Movie™ fan, you might take something away from The Gentlemen—but nobody else will care.
- Rating - 5/105/10