Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Gentlemen - Review

To say that the last few films from Guy Ritchie have been off-brand would be an understatement. The director who made his name on vulgar, gritty, and high-octane crime films is hardly someone you’d think of for Aladdin or King Arthur, and yet studios gave him huge budgets to do both. Now, he makes a return to the genre he knows well, a vulgar, gritty, high octane crime film called The Gentlemen, and we can all be glad he did.

Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) 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.

Straight away, the return of the Guy Ritchie tone is made abundantly clear. It opens with a brief voice over from Matthew McConaughey (that feels vaguely like a Lincoln commercial) and quickly moves to the reveal of a story, piece by piece, from the unreliable lips of a devious reporter played by Hugh Grant. Utilizing this structure is a brilliant move, it allows for a quick cuts, retellings, and general mayhem that play into the style of Ritchie’s direction perfectly.
Of course, the return to form in style and tone, also means audiences are provided with a whole films worth of dense, slightly offensive dialogue for the ensemble cast to chew up. And boy, do they ever. Everyone is their own shade of over the top here. From the exuberance and hunger of Henry Golding to the very odd, but somehow effective, choices made by Jeremy Strong, everyone is making a deliberate decision to give it their all, no matter how the final product always looks.

The highlight of it all though remains Hugh Grant. The chief storyteller, essentially a narrator for large chunks of the film, Grant is provided ample opportunity for comedy and he does not waste them. His character of Fletcher is one that is easy to dislike, but impossible to take your eyes off of at the same time. Though The Gentlemen largely closes the book on this story of Mickey Pearson and his empire, another film with Hugh Grant as Fletcher would be fine by me.

The Gentlemen is another January release that is surprisingly solid. A studio release date might as well be the kiss of death, and yet, 2020 has produced two releases that far exceed expectations. The performances are all dynamite in some regard, particularly when they’re allowed to really run with it, and the whole tone of the film really works. The film isn’t likely to blow anyone away, but it brings back the literal, and figurative, punches of Ritchie’s older hits for a ride that’s fun above all else.

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