THE GENTLEMEN review by Mark Walters – Guy Ritchie delivers another energetic crime caper

THE GENTLEMEN review by Mark Walters – Guy Ritchie delivers another energetic crime caper

In recent years, Guy Ritchie has moved more toward big Hollywood blockbusters, with hit and miss results. The SHERLOCK HOLMES films saw good success, as did his live action ALADDIN, but THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. struggled to find an audience, and KING ARTHUR seemed almost overlooked entirely. His newest effort is THE GENTLEMEN, a return to form that feels more akin to his early crime caper efforts like LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH, or the under-appreciated ROCKNROLLA. It follows Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Pearson, a marijuana mastermind who has amassed great fortune and success with his secret underground pot farms, strategically housed in the mansions of rich UK folks, most of which inherited their money but know little about how to make it. Pearson seems to have it all, a dedicated right hand man named Ray (Charlie Hunnam), and a beautiful British wife named Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) who runs her own successful car business complete with stunning female mechanics. Looking to retire, Mickey offers a wealthy man named Matthew (Jeremy Strong) a chance to buy him out, at what he feels is a modest price… $400 million. But there’s also Dry Eye (Henry Golding), a Chinese smuggler with aspirations to be more, and he too offers to take over Pearson’s empire. Looming over these potential transactions if Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), a newspaper publisher who wishes to expose Mickey out of spite. As the sharks begins to circle, strange things start happening that make these potential deals seem more dangerous than originally expected.

The story is told by way of one of Big Dave’s reporters named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) meeting with Ray trying to make a deal to keep everything quiet. Fletcher seems to have the inside scoop on everyone, though Ray is no dummy, and can tell when he’s embellishing details and in some instances just confusing reality. This little meeting carries on throughout the film, so we see the story of Mickey through flashbacks as Fletcher gives more and more details. There’s also a moment where some young men bust into one of Mickey’s marijuana labs and steal his stash, and we find out these young men are being trained in a local boxing gym by a man called Coach (Colin Farrell), who gets upset when he realizes what they’ve done. Coach approaches Ray to apologize, and agrees to make up for the problems his boys have caused.

As with most Guy Ritchie crime caper films, there are a lot of characters and events to keep up with, but it’s all very fun and entertaining, and at times just serious enough to let you know these guys are still criminals. McConaughey is great as Mickey Pearson, the smooth-talking American entrepreneur in a world of British criminals. It’s inspired casting in a way, as most of Ritchie’s similar fare sticks to UK characters, even if they’re played by folks not from there. It’s easy to like Mickey Pearson because you get the sense he’s not out to screw anyone, he just wants what is fair, and there’s even dialogue about how his profession is mere years away from being legal anyway. Jeremy Strong is also an American character in this tale, as the effeminate Matthew, the man who pontentially could take all this drug business off of Mickey’s hands. Michelle Dockery sheds her prim and proper DOWNTON ABBEY image here but still has a nice layer of confidence and bravery playing Mickey’s love interest. She knows what she’s part of, but clearly isn’t crazy about it. Henry Golding is effectively intimidating as Dry Eye, a somewhat power hungry baddie who probably has a bigger back story we sadly never get to see. I also enjoyed Eddie Marsan as Big Dave, the newspaper publisher who isn’t above smearing someone if they don’t show him proper respect. And Colin Farrell is of course his usual engaging self playing Coach, a tough but reasoned man who just wants to keep his boys safe, even if it means getting his own hands dirty. His character doesn’t show up until about halfway though the film, but he’s one of the best in the ensemble. But most of the screen time holds on Hugh Grant as the cocky Fletcher and Charlie Hunnam as the quiet Ray. Grant appears to be having the most fun too, playing a smarmy reporter who thinks he’s got it all figured out, but also knows to some extent he’s treading in very dangerous waters. Hunnam probably makes the lightest impression as he just doesn’t have much to say, spending most of his time listening to Grant talk, but his character still serves a purpose… I always feel like filmmakers just don’t know what to do with Hunnam, as he’s obviously capable of good acting (see SONS OF ANARCHY), but his film work has yet to make much of an impression.

This is a film where anyone could die at any time, making it a flick you won’t want to take your eyes off of, but in classic Guy Ritchie form, the violence is mostly played for laughs, or is so outrageous and shocking you kind of have to chuckle. The production doesn’t quite feel as satisfying as some of Ritchie’s other similar work, but it’s still highly entertaining, and does seem like the director returning to his roots a bit. Also, unlike LOCK, STOCK and SNATCH, THE GENTLEMEN is a bit more accessible for American audiences, probably by design, even if there’s still plenty of British humor and dialogue that almost requires subtitles in key moments. At an hour and 53 minutes, the movie moves at a brisk pace, and probably could have easily run another 10 to 15 minutes if it wanted to. The ending does feel a tad abrupt, but it still manages to wrap things up nicely. I’m not sure I could say I loved this one, but I very much enjoyed the ride. I will say this seems more like Guy Ritchie just having a good time than trying to make a big Hollywood movie, and that’s something I’ve missed with him a lot.

THE GENTLEMEN opens January 24, 2020

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.