The Gentlemen Review
Guy Ritchie's latest is less Lock Stock and more Knives Out; a gangster whodunit that's not as clever as it thinks it is, but is a perfectly entertaining start to the New Year nonetheless.Ritchie has quite competently made the transition from relatively low budget but stylish Brit gangster flicks to Hollywood blockbusters over the course of the past two decades, with even his Man from UNCLE adaptation, whilst a Box Office flop, nonetheless a solid and perhaps even underrated updating of the source series, and his popular Sherlock Holmes outings wonderfully engaging (here's hoping that a third is finally actually going to be made). King Arthur was a mess, but still entertaining in a way that - for example - the recent Robin Hood 'revision' just couldn't lay claim too, and his live action Aladdin was also surprisingly good. Now, after possibly his least 'Guy Ritchie' movie, he goes back to what he started with - gangsters in London - bringing some Hollywood talent with him for the trip.
It's altogether harder to pull the same wise-ass, too-smart-for-the-viewer trickery you would maybe get away with twenty years agoAmerican Mickey Pearson has enjoyed life at the top of the marijuana business in the UK, but is looking to move on, although any sign of weakness provides an opening in his cutthroat business, with the wolves lining up to take over as leader of the pack. As he attempts to close a near half-billion-pound deal, other buyers try to take more aggressive negotiating approaches, chancers try their hand at raiding his farms, and a simple ask from one of his more prestigious clients sees the bodies piling up. Will Mickey be able to navigate the treacherous underground waters and retire in peace or pieces?
The Gentlemen isn't classic Ritchie, at least not in the sense of Lock Stock and Snatch, but they were a product of a time long gone, and it's altogether harder to pull the same wise-ass, too-smart-for-the-viewer trickery you would maybe get away with twenty years ago. These days audiences are too savvy, and it is hard to do something new - look at how elaborate Rian Johnson's Knives Out had to be in order to even slightly keep you guessing - particularly in this genre. To that end, Ritchie does well to revisit his old stomping ground and do so with a modicum of novelty to at least some of the ideas, attempting to bring a little self-awareness to the fable (the story-within-a-story from Hugh Grant's hugely over-the-top 'storyteller' mostly works) and occasionally spinning things off thoroughly unpredictably (Colin Farrell absolutely steals the show, and basically provides every genuine belly laugh in the entire affair) as it tells what should be a predictable tale given how damn well-trodden this territory is.
He's got a solid cast, cleverly not making McConaughey's gangster the primary focus (despite being the primary focus of the 'story-within-the-story') and instead leaving the heavy lifting to the Charlie Hunnam's more interesting lieutenant, as well as Grant and Farrell as flavouring to veritably spice up the proceedings. The ostensible villains of the piece are much less interesting (although perhaps we'll never get a memorable Brick-Top again, and maybe a modern equivalent wouldn't even work) but that doesn't always matter as the key is often to find out just who is a villain.
Whilst it's no reason to get out of bed on New Year's Day and head straight to the cinema, it's a decent enough start to the year nonetheless
Perhaps better viewed through the lens of an oddly effective companion-piece to Knives Out rather than another stylish, witty and smart gangster flick 'from the writer/director of Lock Stock and Snatch', expectations do need to be moderated here. This isn't classic in any sense of the word, but, with that in mind, it's never less than engaging as it weaves its unsurprisingly convoluted tale involving a colourful collection of a dozen or more characters who, somehow, by the end of it, you kind of know. Whether you care about them is another matter, but The Gentlemen keeps moving fast enough for that not to matter too much, and whilst it's no reason to get out of bed on New Year's Day and head straight to the cinema, it's a decent enough start to the year nonetheless.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.