There’s always a feeling when watching a Guy Ritchie film that he’s made it for himself more so than anyone else. His style is so distinct and self-serving, and the gimmick of it has well and truly worn off. Richie overindulges himself in every single one of his films, and yet, in recent years he’s become a champion of the mainstream.
Despite Aladdin being one of last years highest-profile misfires it still managed to make 1 billion dollars, and his financial failure adaption of King Arthur was still far removed from the stories he told in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Now he’s returned to his roots in a way only Guy Ritchie can, with a film about an American gangster selling marijuana in England as he fends off the devious brits around him, he’s called it The Gentlemen.
Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is said gangster. A ruthless Rhodes Scholar who found himself more drawn to drug dealing than studying while at Oxford. Realising his talent for getting rich kids to part with their money, he begins to expand, and by the time we meet him, he has marijuana production spanning all of England.
The bulk of the story is told to us by a private investigator named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) who trailed Pearson during his efforts to sell his business and go straight. Also, in the ensemble are Pearson’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) and an extremely proficient boxing trainer who simply goes by Coach (Colin Farrell).
There are plenty of twists and turns in the narrative, as is to be expected. Along with those comes plenty of profanity and classic Ritchie mannerisms and yet it all works. There comes a point in The Gentlemen where it becomes inescapably fun, and strangely engrossing. And it all comes down to the hilarious chemistry the cast produce in front of the camera.
Throughout the performers never shy away from the most outrageous of gags. There are comical deaths, projectile vomit, everything Hugh Grant does, and an unfortunate evening with a pig. It becomes so over the top it may be the ultimate practise of self-indulgence Ritchie has ever made, but when it’s over, you can’t help but smirk and be happy to have seen it.
As mentioned, Grant absolutely steals the show as he delves into his range and produces a Fletcher who delivers every line to maximum hilarity. So smarmy and weaselly, yet endearing, is Fletcher that you don’t know whether or not you want him dead by the end. McConaughey is also brilliant, he seems to have an affinity for characters who indulge in the drug trade in any way, and here he proves gangsters are no different.
And they are only two pieces of Ritchie’s massive puzzle. Alongside them sit many other spectacular performers each of whom has a moment in the spotlight to shine.
There is no grand message in The Gentlemen, no cutting political commentary or highlighting of unseen truths. It’s cinema for the sake of cinema, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Ritchie is the perfect man to make this kind of movie, anything can happen at any time, and it does with a complete reckless abandon that reeks of fun more than an egregious lack of depth or thought.
There is no covering up for the liberties Ritchie takes to have things his own way, but there is a certain acceptance of them that The Gentlemen generates and that might just be the best part.
Guy Ritchie sticks more rigorously than ever to his unique style of filmmaking with The Gentlemen, and some will wish he hadn’t. But, for most moviegoers, this will be a bundle of outrageous fun, and that’s enough to make it Ritchie’s best work in a long while.
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