Review: 'The Gentlemen' (2020) Dir. Guy Ritchie
Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Guy Ritchie returns to the criminal underworld of London with an international cast for a strong return to form...
American marijuana baron Mickey Pearson (McConaughey) is ready to sell his criminal empire and settle down with his wife; tough-talking entrepreneur Rosalind (Dockery).
After reaching a deal to sell for nearly half-a-billion dollars, a number of competing criminal gangs start to sniff around Pearson and his empire, each wanting a slice for themselves.
Figures such as "The Coach" (Farrell) and "Dry Eye" (Golding) all come into contact with Pearson, Rosalind and his right-hand man Raymond (Hunnam), and the outcome of the sell will be a deceptive and bloody one...
After a stylish opening that evokes the crime capers of Quentin Tarantino and the visuals of a James Bond title sequence, it's evident this is going to be a slick, stylish and balls-to-the-wall crime thriller from the man returning to his gang-land roots of 'Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels'.
A colourful cast bring equally colourful and foul-mouthed characters to life such as US marijuana kingping Matthew McConaughey and his femme-fetale Cockey wife Michelle Dockery, Chinese Triad Henry Golding, smooth gangster Charlie Hunnam and East-End private investigator Hugh Grant. All these classic crime-thriller types come together in a story that includes everything Guy Ritchie does well - a back and forth narrative, minimalist but nasty violence, snappy dialogue and enough London charm and style to populate an episode of 'EastEnders'.
Semi-narrated by Grant and Hunnam, the story is a rather simple one of many criminal fingers from all walks of empires and gangs out to snap up a drug empire founded by McConaughey.
One of the most colourful being a bunch of street-rats and vloggers called "The Toddlers" reporting to "Coach" Colin Farrell. Just one of many Ritchie traits of crazy characters with oddball names, but ones that represent a real slice of that gangland, underground community that have their own way of working, of fighting, talking and surviving. This is a criminal story all about hierarchy; Ritchie never builds a story too easy to follow, and instead has a working organagram of people in power reporting to others, who in turn know others and they know others too - prepare for a battle of class and words over just guns and fists, because they hold equal power as our stories all come together (again thanks to the narrative by a super against type Grant).
From violent council estates to grand country estates and everywhere in between, this crime story takes in all of London's class system to hit home an ever contrasting and ever changing society our characters live in. This is a strong return to form for Ritchie and the British crime genre, with international and domestic weight on and off screen. There is enough style in what you see on screen accompanied by a solid score by Oscar winner Christopher Benstead to craft an immersive story with equally entertaining characters, but without losing itself in overly-complicated graphics, text on screen or snappy editing. It's grounded, and all the better for it.
Stand-out performances come from Hunnam and Dockery equally, restrained in their Cockney charm and swagger, but who just ooze menace and power with their presence alone. None of them really falter, but not everyone gets as much time to shine as they may well deserve, such as Golding, but on the other hand he plays the part needed without the story becoming cluttered with characters vying for screen-time.
And thankfully, the danger is ever present. While comedic in some moments (naturally, at best) nobody is presented as totally trustworthy. You'll be guessing at who will do what to get the upper-hand, and who will make it to the credits alive with some clever juxtaposition of sots and scenes. Again, Ritchie is a capable director with the right material and this is it.
With plenty of in your face gang culture, racism, murder and swearing that is handled as naturally as it exists around close-knit underworld types and all the better for it. Nothing woke here.
This production looks and feels like one of the most authentic British criminal / gangland thrillers in recent years, fronted by talent who deliver just what is expected.
'The Gentlemen' is a Miramax production