22 years ago, a young British filmmaker reinvented the crime comedy genre and delivered one of the freshest debuts ever with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” Two years later, he would cement his status as the British answer to Tarantino with his next movie “Snatch.” Now, after spending years involved in mainstream projects, Guy Ritchie is back at what he does best: dissecting the world of organized crime in the United Kingdom, in the most entertaining way imaginable.
Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) controls the market for cannabis in Britain. However, he wants to retire with his wife and sell his operation to an American businessman (Jeremy Strong). In the middle of the negotiations, one of his secret farms gets raided by a group of plaid-wearing boxers, a Chinese gang of heroin dealers moves into his territory, and, if all that wasn’t enough, a reporter named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) threatens to unmask Pearson as a drug lord unless he pays him £20 million. Pearson’s right-hand-man, Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), is up to his ears into restoring order and making sure the tradeover goes by smoothly, which – you might have guessed – won’t.
First things first, “The Gentlemen” isn’t as great as the two previously mentioned movies, but it is not far behind either. Ritchie, who also wrote the script, introduces us again to quirky characters, surprises us with unforeseeable twists, and pairs eruptions of extreme violence with humorous dialogue, garnished with plenty of foul language.
But this movie isn’t just a copy of Richie’s early successes. He is also able to enrich his sujet with a dose of meta-humor. At one point, Fletcher offers Raymond his findings in the form of a screenplay – which is, at least in parts, the script to “The Gentleman.” And that’s not the end of mixing “reality” with fiction in this film — it’s just the beginning.
As always with Guy Ritchie, the actors look like they had a great time shooting this movie, even though Matthew McConaughey may have had more fun making “The Beach Bum.” The big surprise of the film is Charlie Hunnam, who is in most scenes and shoulders the movie, despite being billed second. After working with Richie before on “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” Hunnam gives one of his career-best performances. The only one topping this is scene-stealing Colin Farrell as the coach of the plaid-wearing boxers. His character alone holds enough for another movie out of this cosmos.
After Ritchie’s last gangster comedy “RocknRolla” never got the sequel fans were promised, and the director rather worked on big-budget tentpoles instead, it didn’t look like he would return to his roots anytime soon. However, after having his biggest commercial success with the live-action remake of Disney’s “Aladdin,” he reconsidered and returned to the genre that made him big in the first place.
Fans of Ritchie’s gangster movies get their money’s worth of hilarious dialogue, a twisted and over-the-top gangster story, and the coolest characters of the entire island. Hopefully this movie will be successful enough to justify Ritchie’s further absence from mainstream cinema, in order to give us more crime comedy gems made in Britain (which arguably has the best criminals in film history, but don’t tell Quentin). Long story short, “The Gentlemen” is exactly what fans were hoping for and marks a return to the director’s stylistic and narrative origins. It remains to be seen if there will be more of that in the future. After watching this movie, I would certainly hope so!