REVIEW: The Gentlemen (2020)

Theatrical Release Poster — STX Films

The following is a review of The Gentlemen — Directed by Guy Ritchie.

If you look at Guy Ritchie’s films from the 2010s, you will see a mixed bag of sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and potential franchise-starters that were made with either Warner Bros. or Disney. His 2011 Sherlock Holmes sequel, A Game of Shadows, received mixed-to-positive reviews and was a financial success. Though I actually really enjoyed it, his film adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was described by industry experts as a box office flop, and his woeful fantasy epic King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was even more of disappointment as it was critically panned and reportedly lost its studios more than $150 million.

Perhaps in an effort to make something that would absolutely make a profit, Ritchie agreed to direct Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin that did ultimately make money, even though it was met with mixed reviews. To follow up on that wonky major motion picture rollercoaster-ride of a decade, Guy Ritchie has returned to his roots and made The Gentlemen, an action-comedy crime film set in his home country of England. Thankfully, this star-studded crime film, though not without problematic elements, is a return to form for Guy Ritchie.

Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen is a crime-comedy about the wealthy crime boss Mickey Pearson (played by Matthew McConaughey) and his attempt to sell his drug empire to Matthew Berger (played by Jeremy Strong), an American billionaire, for $400 million. Since a grudge-bearing tabloid editor (played by Eddie Marsan) wants to take down Mickey Pearson’s empire, he has hired a private investigator, Fletcher (played by Hugh Grant), to dig up dirt on Pearson and his associates. However, since the private investigator is two-faced, he decides to instead offer his findings exclusively to Pearson’s right-hand man, Raymond (played by Charlie Hunnam), for the sum of £20 million. Meanwhile, Dry Eyes, a deputy of a Chinese crime lord, also has his eyes on Pearson’s empire, and, while he tries to gain control of Pearson’s assets, the deputy also desperately wants to usurp his boss.

“I want you to join me on this cinematic journey. Because it is cinema, Ray. It’s beautiful, beautiful cinema. Now, roll camera. Enter our protagonist.”

The major plot of Guy Ritchie’s latest film is structured within a framing device. The story of Mickey Pearson and his attempts to profit from his drug empire and leave the business to retire is framed by Fletcher’s attempt to blackmail Raymond, Pearson’s right-hand man. Let me be clear about this, if you do not enjoy the undeniably pompous and self-important framing device, then I, frankly, don’t think you’ll enjoy this movie. I think that Fletcher’s elaborate and cheeky presentation of his so-called screenplay, which is really just a write-up of his findings, was extremely amusing, but I can also imagine that others might think it to be frustratingly overblown. Ritchie won’t win over his naysayers here, but if you enjoy his filmography, then I suspect that you will enjoy this film too.

I think that the framing device works. I loved the first scenes between Grant and Hunnam’s characters. There is this nice rhythm to the stylish opening that I really enjoyed, but I was surprised to see that the film wasn’t paced more energetically as it went along. I must admit, though, that I think the film becomes overcomplex. Even though the framing device does explain quite a bit, it becomes, perhaps, overly intricate with the many double-crossings and crime bosses. I will say, though, that the biggest problem with this film is its offensive dialogue. You do become tired of the many insensitive or derogatory lines. Whether authentic to the environment, or characters, or not, it just becomes too much. I would also add that the scene between Henry Golding and Michelle Dockery goes way too far and that the actions of Golding’s character are completely unnecessary here.

I really think that the film mainly succeeds because of how enjoyable Charlie Hunnam and Hugh Grants’ rapport is on-screen. Hunnam is solid and competent as the straight man to Grant’s delightfully pompous and flirty private investigator. I think Hugh Grant is extremely entertaining to watch in The Gentlemen. Oddly, McConaughey’s Mickey Pearson might be the least interesting character, and McConaughey’s performance, frankly, isn’t very memorable. This movie is all about its supporting characters who are mischievous and colorful. Like Jeremy Strong’s effete billionaire, Henry Golding’s debonair but aggressive up-and-coming crime underboss, and Colin Farrell’s Coach, who is ready and able to teach young criminals a lesson inside of a restaurant. Strong, Golding, and Farrell are all fashionably dressed, and I, especially, loved the many matching Burberry tracksuits. Farrell’s comedic line-delivery is just impeccable, and he and Grant’s performances are easily the most memorable.

The Gentlemen is a very entertaining film, in large part due to its extraordinary performances from Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell. But Guy Ritchie isn’t for everyone. His style can be overwhelming for some, and his characters and their dialogue can certainly be disagreeable. Those that already do not care for his brand of filmmaking will not be swayed by The Gentlemen. But those that enjoy his style will likely recognize this as a true return to form.

8 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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