The Gentlemen review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The Gentlemen is a real return to form for Guy Ritchie. Just when you think he has settled into whipping up not-so-stellar action pictures undeserving of his slick direction, out comes a more grounded and giddy gangster picture to place the director back in his element. Though somewhat troubling in that the film never really manages to escape the expected Ritchie-isms, it’s at least a pleasing experience if not a masterpiece from such a talented artist.
In the tradition of Snatch, the film is an intersecting story crime drama where everything seems to snowball out of control. Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is getting a little old for his elaborate weed growing operation spread across Europe. He’s kinda-sorta trying to sell it to the wealthy investor of Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), hoping to get a pretty penny as he exits the business. What he didn’t count on was the cocky Chinese mafia son Dry Eye (Henry Golding) attempting to hone in on his business. And he especially didn’t plan on a gang of hoodlums managed by the oddball Coach (Colin Farrell).
That’s wild enough but the story gets even more eccentric with its initial framing device of Pearson’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) being relayed the events by the gay reporter Fletcher (Hugh Grant). These scenes are exceptionally fun not just because of the energy between them but how Fletcher’s story seems to fluctuate between what he’s blackmailing Raymond for and what he’s pitching as a screenplay. It’s also a lot of fun to watch the sexual tension increase with every scene of them, to the point where Fletcher is literally begging to hop in the sack with the bearded Hunnam.
Before I go into the expected slickness of the picture that we’ve come to expect from Ritchie, I’ve gotta admit I really dug how the director has thrown the audience a meaty steak of queer theory on this film. Aside from the cherry on top being the flirtatious and sexually hungry Fletcher, there are lots of queer moments throughout that will easily sneak by most of the mainstream. This ranges from dialogue about bench pressing and sexual acts among all the male characters to women being seen more as distant objects they never have sex with. Take Pearson’s wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) for example. She teases Mickey with sex but never gives it to him and at one point is nearly raped right before Mickey swoops in to blow the brains out of the rapist.
While the queer theory element is the most delicious part, there’s still a lot to love about this picture on its surface. The all-star cast is in top form, really having fun with their roles. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Charlie Hunnam is a role that seems most relaxed for a guy who chases down punks and threatens them with a gun. The editing is naturally fast-paced and is cut in a manner that has enough faith in the audience that it can cut between several scenes without worrying the audience can’t keep up. The dialogue is exceptionally crisp with lots of to-the-point talk of intimidation and several twists within tense showdowns.
I only wish that The Gentlemen had just a little more to offer. It’s not that Ritchie has lost his fun style but it doesn’t really feel like it’s improved since his previous gangster pictures. This is only a mildly troubling aspect because after a slew of lackluster movies, its pleasing to see Ritchie back in his element where he excels at best. He doesn’t deliver quite the masterpiece he’s capable of but still gives us a friendly reminder about why we dig him so much.