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The Gentlemen Movie Review

The Gentlemen (2020) movie poster The Gentlemen

Theatrical Release: January 24, 2020 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Guy Ritchie / Writers: Guy Ritchie (story & screenplay), Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies (story)

Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Michael Pearson), Charlie Hunnam (Ray), Henry Golding (Dry Eye), Michelle Dockery (Rosalind Pearson), Jeremy Strong (Matthew), Colin Farrell (Coach), Hugh Grant (Fletcher), Eddie Marsan (Big Dave), Tom Wu (Lord George), Bugzy Malone (Ernie), Lyne Renee (Jackie), Chidi Ajufo (Bunny), Simon Barker (Frazier), Jason Wong (Phuc), John Dagliesh (Hammy), Jordan Long (Barman), Lily Frazier (Lisa the Mechanic), Gerwyn Eustache JNR (Roger), Samuel West (Lord Pressfield), Geraldine Somerville (Lady Pressfield), Eliot Sumner (Laura Pressfield)


Guy Ritchie scored the biggest hit of his career last year on Disney's $1 billion-grossing, live-action Aladdin remake, but if you thought that would usher in a new age of big budget, family-friendly musical comedies for the British director of Snatch,
Sherlock Holmes, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he's wasted no time to remove such silly thoughts from your head. Just eight months after Aladdin opened, we get The Gentlemen, which might be the Guy Ritchiest of Guy Ritchie movies.

Earlier in his career, that would not have been a compliment. Even revisiting it last year, I've found Snatch to be almost completely devoid of charm and I've still never mustered the interest to see the esteemed Lock, whose stars (Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham) have not made me fans over the years. Nonetheless, Gentlemen is as creative and witty as anything Ritchie has made and briefly holds the title of the best film of the decade.

Written by Ritchie, who shares story but not screenplay credit with his assistant turned producer Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, Gentlemen is a film that could only come from the action-seasoned filmmaker, although the delightful presence of Colin Farrell in a colorful supporting role invites some flattering comparisons to the work of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths).

Guy Ritchie's "The Gentlemen" stars Matthew McConaughey as London-based American marijuana mogul Mickey Pearson and Michelle Dockery as his wife.

The film opens with Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) sitting down at a pub to a pickled egg and a drink, which are both soon splattered with blood. With McConaughey taking top billing, you can be sure this incident is not the film's first chronologically. Our frame story involves a private eye named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) requesting a 20 million pound payout from Pearson's right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam, reuniting with Ritchie after 2017's unfortunate King Arthur) in exchange for a screenplay he's written about the goings-on in Pearson's drug empire.

Fletcher acclimates us to our protagonist Pearson, an American who went from dealing weed to becoming England's most successful marijuana manufacturer and is now ready to sell the business to an American billionaire (Jeremy Strong, reminding us it's been a year since McConaughey's Serenity) and retire with his wife (Michelle Dockery). But Pearson has recently made a number of enemies including: Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), a tabloid editor he savagely snubbed at a party; Dry Eye (Crazy Rich Asians' Henry Golding), an underboss of a Chinese gang whose pitch to buy Pearson's empire is coldly rejected; and some Russians who are upset with a recent intervention gone wrong.

The specifics of this suitably twisty plot are not worth detailing here, but they are easy to invest in and follow. And although sympathetic characters are not an area where Ritchie historically shines, this is surprisingly not a concern as we bounce back and forth between Fletcher's late night home shakedown of Raymond and all these criminal world interactions. Farrell steals scenes as a track-suited boxing coach and father figure to Cockney hoods, whose latest viral video sees them breaking into one of Pearson's covert, state-of-the-art marijuana labs.

Colin Farrell steals scenes as the boxing coach who is all about educating London's youth.

Like most of Ritchie's work, this one won't be for everyone. The C-word is uttered around one hundred times and the whole thing is dripping with machismo and testosterone. But it's well-crafted and undeniably entertaining. McConaughey has been on a losing streak these past few years, headlining interesting flops (Gold) and flat-out duds like The Dark Tower and The Beach Bum. This latest effort doesn't really see him stretching himself,
but it restores some of our faith in him that swelled earlier last decade during the so-called McConaissance. Ritchie is the real star of this picture and even if, like me, you haven't been blown away by his work on the whole, you're apt to appreciate that here his good qualities -- the signature flair and an unusually on-target wit -- clearly outperform his bad qualities (his depictions of masculinity and predilection for celebrating lowlifes).

With everything in a row creatively, the big questions about The Gentlemen surround its release and prospects of commercial success. The film reportedly cost just around $18 million to produce, a far cry from the steep budgets Ritchie enjoyed on King Arthur and the two Sherlock Holmes (whose delayed third installment he isn't returning to direct). So the stakes are pretty low for STX, a young studio that experienced its two biggest hits last year (The Upside and Hustlers) in defiance of standard Hollywood scheduling practices. The Gentlemen won't topple the overperforming Bad Boys for Life in its second weekend, but it doesn't need to in order to be deemed profitable.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Bad Boys for Life Dolittle
Directed by Guy Ritchie: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Sherlock Holmes (2009) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Aladdin (2019)
Matthew McConaughey: Gold Serenity (2019) The Dark Tower White Boy Rick | Hugh Grant: Four Weddings and a Funeral
Henry Golding: Crazy Rich Asians Last Christmas | Colin Farrell: Seven Psychopaths

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Reviewed January 24, 2020.

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