- Andrew Lynch
THE GENTLEMAN Review
Now let me tell you a story, of a proper geezer. If you didn’t read that in your most cockney of Cockney accents, then The Gentleman may not be for you. After taking a trip to Tinsel Town, Guy Ritchie returns to his South London gangster roots. Albeit, with more class (hence the title). Gone are the filthy, grey streets of London and cheap suits and Op-shop attire. Enter the sleek suits and hair styles, in slightly cleaner but just as grey streets.
The Gentleman, like most Ritchie films, revolves around a series of larger than life characters and the way their paths connect and interweave in a non-linear, intricate crime plot. In this one, Michael (McConaughey) is a drug kingpin wishing to sell off the UK branch of his empire. Double and Triple crosses ensure, along with many a swear word and threatening monologues.
Ritchie is back in his comfort mode and he relishes being back. After a decade of blockbuster films with his flare (see: Sherlock Holmes (2009), The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015) and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)), most of which received middling reception, Ritchie returns home. And if his earlier work appeals to you, then this movie is right up your alley. If you were expected Ritchie to grow as a film maker, you might have to wait a while. His doing what he does best at an entertaining level that is refreshing because it is a new Ritchie crime film, not because it is an evolution of his previous works.
The stars of this star-studded cast are absolutely Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell, who are having the time of their life with some against type characters. Colin Farrell plays Coach, a boxing coach trying to keep his YouTube star students off the streets. He’s subdued and oozes big daddy vibes, wearing cardigans, tracksuits and glasses. He’s the moral grey compass of the movie, and has some of the most memorable moments in the film. Farrell is only one-upped by Hugh Grant who snaps the dial off and devours the scenery as Fletcher, the sleazy, douchebag paparazzi reporter who narrates the story. He’s flirty, flamboyant and fantastic! The moment he opens his mouth, the film comes alive. He is a necessary bright spot when the film drags.
Ritchie’s signature disjointed narrative is at play here, with the opening 20 minutes of the movie dedicated to pure exposition. The dialogue has enough flare to make it compelling, but it feels unnecessary or simple enough to be conveyed in a more interesting way. However, once the set-up is done, the movie kicks into gear and gets into the intricacies and machinations of the plot. The ending does suffer from an overkill of misdirects, in that characters reveal to have been 2-steps ahead before another character reveals to have been 3-steps ahead all along. It’s a stumbling point of many Ritchie films, in particular, the end sequence of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The rest of the cast are in fine form, but pale compared to Grant and Farrell. McConaughey and Charlie Hunnam play very familiar characters; sinister yet cold criminals. Michelle Dockery and Henry Golding are given a chance to show a different side of themselves, that being (shockingly) South London criminals. Dockery’s prim and proper Downton Abbey demeanour and Golding’s rom-com charm are nowhere in sight, and so it can be jarring initially, but it settles in after a while.
The Gentleman is a Guy Ritchie film. If you know what to expect, then that is what you’re gonna get, for better or for worse. British gangsters. Flashbacks. More flashbacks. And enough geezers to fill a retirement home.