The Gentlemen is standard yet enjoyable Guy Ritchie fare

Photo: The Gentlemen.. Image Courtesy Christopher Raphael/STXfilms
Photo: The Gentlemen.. Image Courtesy Christopher Raphael/STXfilms /

A gaggle of strong performances from the likes of Hugh Grant and Charlie Hunnam makes Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen worth watching, even if it feels like a retread of old material.

After his turn directing last year’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin, it seemed as if Guy Ritchie was branching out from his standard criminal caper films and beginning to explore new territory. The Gentlemen entirely disproves that theory, and although it brings practically nothing new to the table in terms of Ritchie’s subject matter, it’s still got enough wit and charm to make its convoluted plot worth sitting through.

The film follows the exploits of drug kingpin Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) and his entourage as he attempts to navigate the sale of his $100 million marijuana empire, while also dodging attacks on his life and attempts to topple everything he’s built.

As we mentioned earlier, the premise is hardly new territory for Ritchie — an ensemble crime film with an eclectic cast of white men is Ritchie’s bread and butter, which is unfortunate because the lack of a new premise means that the plot has to be water-tight in order to avoid feeling like rehash of old work. Sadly, The Gentlemen is incredibly convoluted and feels longer than it is, even with a fairly conservative hour and 49-minute runtime.

While the structure of having Hugh Grant’s Fletcher tell the entire story as the audiences watches and listens via extended flashback is an interesting twist, the tale that he’s telling has so many twists and turns that it can feel difficult to keep interested, even when you want to.

Adding insult to injury is that, as a result of the unnecessary convoluted-ness of this plot, some characters feel drastically more important than others, which is a shame when everyone in your cast is bringing their A-game. Ironically, the film’s protagonist and biggest box office draw (McConaughey) is also the most uninteresting protagonist. Pearson is a fairly by-the-numbers crime lord, even with the added intrigue of attempting to decipher McConaughey’s attempt at a British accent.

Fortunately, though, the slack is more than picked up by the supporting cast, which includes the odd couple we spend most of the film with, Fletcher (Hugh Grant) and Ray (Charlie Hunnam). Fletcher is a fast-talking, film-obsessed weasel of a man attempting to blackmail Pearson’s number two man, Ray, into giving him 20 million pounds, and the two have chemistry so palpable you can practically taste it through the screen.

Grant is virtually unrecognizable as a seedy slimeball of a PI, and Hunnam has just the right ammounts of stoicism and wit to play off of the multiple romantic passes Fletcher makes at him. Also bringing his A-Game is Colin Farrell, who, like Grant, is begining to seem more chameleon than man with every film he acts in. He plays the soft-spoken Irishman known as “Coach,” and although his presence at times feels like it could be cut without the film losing much in terms of plot, his unique brand of humor plays nicely against some of the more brutal crime elements (especially an unintentional Black Mirror reference in the film’s climax).

Michelle Dockery also gives a strong performance as Pearson’s wife Rosalind, although she is given so little to do that it’s easy to forget about her character when she’s not onscreen, even with Dockery going all out. Also unfortunately forgettable is Henry Golding as the film’s antagonist, “Dry Eye,” a rival up-and-coming druglord who has very few discernable character traits other than his ambitions to topple Pearson.

Rounding out the cast is Jeremy Strong as Matthew, the potential buyer for Pearson’s empire. Although Strong has turned out some impressive performances in the past (his work in Succession is the first example that comes to mind), his character is shockingly uninteresting considering not only his significance in the film, but also how great most other supporting characters were. He also lacks the charm and humor that others seem to be swimming in, which makes him a fairly unwelcome presence whenever he’s onscreen.

However, a few bad eggs certainly don’t ruin the whole basket, and in this case, Ritchie’s tried-and-true formula pulls through again. The addition of the meta nature of the storytelling via Grant’s character was an interesting touch, and the razor-sharp dialogue and unapologetic silliness of the entire affair make The Gentlemen more than worth the price of admission.

Next. Aladdin: 5 ways the live-action film pays homage to the classic. dark

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