|STXfilms (United States)|
Sleazy private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) tracks down the dirty business arrangements between cannabis tycoon Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) and an American millionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong). With the intel he discovers, he attempts to bribe Mickey’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), and that's just not going to sit well with at all.
Like most of Ritchie’s movies, The Gentlemen throws you into the middle of the action, and then sets up the story and characters as it moves forward. Told in a non-linear perspective, Fletcher narrates his version of a wide range of events between Pearson and Berger, and a few other side-villains (too much divulging of the plot might create spoilers). At first glance, the set-up is predictable. Using a charismatic, sketchy narrator like Grant brilliantly draws us into accepting that what Fletcher says goes – he’s a pure outsider, but he’s collected good evidence to even attempt challenging the kings of the jungle. But over time as Person, Raymond, and Berger have cards up their sleeves too, a realization dawns that everything is not what it seems –some mice are making their own mouse-traps (no help required by its prey), some cats have a lion on their tail. It's not brilliantly or refreshingly setting up twists and surprises, but it's enough to keep the endings feeling satisfactory.
For the most part, however, The Gentlemen is paint-by-numbers straight-forward. As much Ritchie's movies like to unfold at all angles and keep you on your toes, too much of the film relies on the drama between Raymond idly listening to Fletcher’s one-man play, and the audience falling down their rabbit hole. The plot is intriguing enough, but there aren’t big exciting twists to hook you along the way – not a lot of comedy or action to keep the pace rolling. Any build-up to potential violence is unevenly edited out. The roundabout story lives up to the hype, but the tension never fully plays out like it could've. Everything about the film's tone is just ‘enough’.
Mainly, Ritchie's betting on us to invest in the cast and their characters– who are the stockiest stock of gangsters a movie can have: Grant's Fletcher is the comic relief, McConaughey’s Pearson is the head honcho, Hunnam’s Raymond is the all-knowing right-hand man, Dockery’s Rosalind is the biting femmefatale, Farrell’s the gruffly unconventional fighter – and many more. They’re not boring performances by any means (though Strong as the mustache-twirling Berger is atrociously miscast); they’re having fun, so it’s okay for them to exist in their element believing in a project as much as Ritchie does. (The film also utilizes an impeccable score by Christopher Benstead to add much-needed tension, and costume design by Michael Wilkinson adds a cheekiness boldness to every his/her character’s natural over-the-top personality.) Ritchie aces some elements, he bluffs at others.
Sometimes it's okay to watch a director stay in his lane. Sometimes it's unchallenging and monotonous. This is the thought-teeter-totter I had while watching The Gentlemen. The film checks-off every box you’d expect: Set in and around London. A magnetic cast. One to-two female leads in a sea of male leads (Dockery's done a disservice here, but won't go into because spoilers). After two hours of feeling like a Larry David gif, I ultimately left the theater shrugging expectantly but also having had fun. The good news about The Gentlemen is that it falls into the director and writer's formula of mob flicks only he can make. The bad news is that the final results are the same as always. It's a Guy Ritchie movie, what do you expect.
Rating: ★1/2 ☆☆
Have you seen The Gentlemen? What did you think?