Returning to his rhyming-slang roots for the first time since 2008’s Rocknrolla, Guy Richie leaves the heftily budgeted worlds of a blue CGI Will Smith and a pick-pocketing King Arthur behind in favour of guns, gangsters and liberal lashings of his favorite C-word (hint: it’s not cockney).
He’s been missed, as the two films that planted him firmly on the map (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch respectively) pretty much set the stage for the man’s entire career and while The Gentlemen doesn’t quite come out blazing as hard as those two classics, it’s still a very entertaining, silly, romp that strongly harks back to his films of old…
Drugs kingpin Mickey Pearson is an incredibly shrewd businessman in the world of marijuana management with a set up worth billions that’s virtually impossible to trace. Rubbing shoulders with the new generation of upper class who can’t afford their family mansions, Mickey pays them a tidy fee in order to use the buildings to distribute his vast amounts of wacky baccy while simultaneously using his pull with the toffs to get a leg up in high society. In fact, you could say he lives a life of tweed and weed, but Mickey is hoping to leave that life behind, retire and settle down with his beloved wife, Rosalind and is looking to sell his setup wholesale.
Of course, this being a Guy Ritchie joint, things go horribly awry and Mickey’s right hand man, Raymond gets a late night visit from skeezy private investigator Fletcher who claims he has all the photo evidence to crack Mickey’s world wide open. Thus begins a lurid and exaggerated telling of events that has led up to this moment: the ascension of Chinese mobster Dry Eye, the fragile business deal with fellow drugs businessman Michael and the accidental invasion of Mickey’s property by a group of young rapping boxers and the subsequent damage control enacted by their exasperated ward, Coach; it all spills from the two-faced mouth of a man who wants proper paying, innit.
As the whole situation spills out of control and Mickey’s life seems to be very much on the line, all the other pieces on this Burberry coloured chessboard scrabble to regain some semblance of order to a VERY complicated scenario.
As Guy Richie ganger films go, this is very much business as usual (in a good way), churning out a super complicated plot which contains many characters who criss-cross in and out of each others lives forming a chaotic lattice of farcical events is how the director made his name but here he chooses to actually come up with a reason for all the smash cuts and various bells and whistles the filmmaker is known for by making the whole thing a hyperbolic story being told by a character obsessed with making things into a movie.
That character is Hugh Grant, firmly putting the dick into private dick with his stupendously slimy performance as Fletcher – acting like a forgotten member of the Carry On gang from the wrong side of the tracks, Grant relays the whole story to Charlie Hunman’s patience-worn consigliere almost like it’s a pitch to a studio and what you think of The Gentlemen may very well depend on your tolerance to Grant’s ludicrous accent.
In comparison, Mathew McConaughey’s Mickey is hugely restrained and rightly played as a controled man used to keeping his cards close to his chest as does Hunman but Colin Farrell as the wild eyed, yet honorable Coach, utterly exasperated by trying to keep track of his mischievous young boxing proteges, reminds you exactly he’s such a good character actor and should really be in more stuff. Everyone else plays their part well in the ensemble and Richie deploys his usual quick-fire sense of humour to flip audience expectations on their head and often to memorable music. A simple mission to retrieve a junkie home to her family ends in accidental homicide and a mad chase through a council estate to the strains of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya while the young boxers choose to film and edit their criminal endeavors to a pounding rap track by cast member Bugzy Malone.
Although textbook Richie, The Gentlemen, unlike it’s characters, seems to be utterly content to simply do what it does best and not push a single solitary boundary or try to be anything more than what it is, but thankfully what it IS is a slick and funny crime caper which may lack some of the youthful zip of Guy’s previous work but makes up for it in confidence and style.
Well worth an eighth of your time… to be blunt…