Some directors have proven that they can tackle a wide array of different genres. Guy Ritchie, on the other hand, is at his best in his comfort zone. Ritchie is a unique talent, but he’s not the best choice to helm a musical like Aladdin, a fantasy epic like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, or a romantic dramedy like Swept Away. From Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to Snatch, crime comedies have always been his specialty. The Gentlemen thankfully doesn’t feel like another studio-driven production that Ritchie just so happened to direct. It’s a pure Guy Ritchie movie in terms of dialogue, style, and performances. For those who’ve been eager to see Ritchie return to his roots, they’ll be happy to know that this is his most entertaining film in years.
Although The Gentlemen is in the spirit of Ritchie’s past works, Hugh Grant’s performance is a departure from his usual shtick. We’re used to seeing Grant either play the charming everyman or the slimy villain in romantic comedies. While Grant’s character here is indeed slimy, we’ve never seen him play a sleazeball quite like this. Putting on a cockney accent, Grant shines as Fletcher, a private investigate who believes he’s sitting on a goldmine of information. Fletcher has been hired to follow a drug lord named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). Fletcher confronts Mickey’s henchman Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) with the intel he’s gathered about their business. If Raymond doesn’t pay £20 million to keep him quiet, Fletcher has everything typed up as a screenplay that could sell for a pretty pound.
Hunnam and Ritchie previously worked together on King Arthur, but The Gentlemen is a far more successful collaboration. Raymond serves as the voice of reason in an underground world of colorful characters, which includes hotheaded Chinese gangster Dry Eye (Henry Golding), scheming billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), and a boxing coach simply known as Coach (Colin Farrell). They’re all intertwined in a complex plot involving stolen goods, a wealthy family’s daughter, and a power struggle that’ll leave only one gentleman standing. Although the film is called The Gentlemen, the best scene in the picture belongs to Michelle Dockery as Mickey’s wife Rosalind, who proves you can do a lot of damage with a small gun and two bullets.
The Gentlemen has all of the trademarks you’d expect from a Ritchie production: fast-paced action, rapid-fire banter, and constant profanity. It’s hard to think of a recent movie that’s dropped the c-word more times per minute. Also, as to be expected from Ritchie, the editing room becomes a playground with much of the film told out of order. In some films, Ritchie’s nonlinear approach can come off as needlessly complicated and artistic just of the sake of being pretentious. Given this film’s framing device and potentially unreliable narrator, though, this structure works to the story’s advantage and adds to the fun.
The film is like a pile of puzzle pieces without the box as a reference. Putting the puzzle together, the audience doesn’t always know what they’re looking at. Once everything starts falling into place, however, we’re left both satisfied and pleasantly surprised. The Gentlemen is about one epic action set piece shy of being Ritchie’s best effort and a few plot points are resolved too hastily. On the whole, however, this is a consistently thrilling, unpredictable, and even meta romp that litterally demands a sequel.