Review: The Gentlemen
Fans of Guy Ritchie‘s early, overtly British crime films will find The Gentlemen a breath of fresh air in his filmography. After a decade of adaptations and sequels (and whatever that heaping mess King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was), Ritchie returns to the genre that launched his career. With an impressive ensemble cast of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Eddie Marsan, and Jeremy Strong, Ritchie crafts another tale of British ne’er-do-wells in grand fashion.
All of the Ritchie hallmarks are back in place, from British slang to excessive cursing to creative insults, plus characters trying to make a mockery of each other. Watching the combination of bumbling oafs, deadpan insults, and austere prissiness is pure entertainment. Hunnam is prim and proper, Grant is absurdly ridiculous, Farrell is over-the-top Irish politeness, and McConaughey is plain American suave. Each impress in their roles and help make The Gentlemen a fun time.
Those looking for deep themes or nuanced characters should look elsewhere. The Gentlemen is just good old-fashioned criminal trickery, and it focuses on the machinations of gangsters trying to outplay each other. Ritchie aims for no dark drama, instead striking a tone of light pithiness. Yet there is intrigue in how Ritchie uses the fourth wall for a commentary on filmmaking. To say much more would delve into spoilers, but Ritchie deliberately plays with the idea of storytelling. Fans of Ritchie know that he has done this before, and The Gentlemen is in part a rumination on his early career. A scene featuring a The Man from U.N.C.L.E. poster certainly reflects this.
It is via these directing and storytelling choice that The Gentlemen acquires a bit of drama. Ritchie deliberately creates tension through the way the film’s story is told. This allows Grant to chew scenery as a storyteller while also playing with audience expectations from the very first shot. The editing and keen sense of humor keep the film breezy and fun, and the end result is one of the better movies of Ritchie’s career.
The storytelling choices aren’t unique or groundbreaking, but in the desolate wasteland of January releases, The Gentlemen is a shining star. The ridiculous overuse of slang and fun wordplay help keep you distracted from the fact that the story has one twist too many and is ultimately completely bollocks. It feels like listening to a slightly arrogant friend tell drunken stories at the pub. He may get a tad full of himself, but it is a good yarn, innit?