The Gentlemen

 

starstarstarhalf

 


Guy Ritchie returns to gangland Britain with a sparkling cast chewing on his priceless (and profane) dialogue.

 

gentlemen, The

Smart geezers: Colin Farrell and Charlie Hunnam

 

They’re very well dressed, the gentlemen. They don designer threads and speak softly, in the knowledge that they have the upper hand, while deftly truncating their phrases (“To what do I owe…?”). The dialogue is the thing and certainly holds the trump card in this shaggy dog story that sees Guy Ritchie back on familiar ground. In spite of the starry cast, Ritchie’s name on the poster is in the biggest font and as writer, producer and director, he deserves it. Top billing, though, goes to Matthew McConaughey, who plays Mickey Pearson, a tweeded-up American who was born poor but used his wits and chutzpah to infiltrate the English aristocracy. With surveillance being what it is, the farming of marijuana in this green and pleasant land has become problematic, but the landed gentry has plenty of land, if not the money to preserve their forebears’ lifestyle. Enter Mickey Pearson... But in the deep waters of the criminal underworld, Mickey has become too familiar a fish to fend off the circling sharks and so offers his business – and his contacts – to an amoral and appropriately greedy billionaire (Jeremy Strong).

 

The plot of the film is pitched as a movie script by a camp Cockney wise guy (“a cunning and creative toad”) played with relish by a re-born Hugh Grant. However, his treatment is actually the cover for a blackmailing plot that threatens to land Pearson – and his contacts – on the front page of The Daily Print, edited by the unscrupulous ‘Big Dave’ (the diminutive Eddie Marsan). This narrative approach does render the film rather episodic, not helped by re-wound scenes of violence, copying a technique from Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. It’s not until the last act, then, that the film finally moves into gear, before ending on another episode with the rug pulled out from under the viewer’s feet. Even so, there is much to savour along the way as a roster of criminal kingpins exert their authority on a carousel of gangland hierarchy. Amongst all the mayhem, Charlie Hunnam glides about effortlessly as Mickey’s right-hand man, subtly adding menace when the occasion demands.

 

Besides the priceless one-liners, the most fun is to be had in Ritchie’s wicked propensity for casting against type. We know now that Hugh Grant is prepared to send himself up (cf. Cloud Atlas, Paddington 2), but fans of Crazy Rich Asians and Last Christmas might be shocked to see Henry Golding urinate on the corpse of an old man. Likewise, Lady Mary Crawley – aka Michelle Dockery – is transformed into a potty-mouthed Cockney gangster’s moll and should send fans of Downton Abbey into paroxysms of horror (summing up a particular state of affairs, Ms Dockery observes, “it’s fuckery afoot”). The joker in the pack is Colin Farrell who, unlike his co-stars, is content to stomp around in leisure wear and eschew the others’ more colourful turns of phrase (“Don’t get ‘street’ on me!” he bellows at a minion).

 

The Gentleman is less a rollercoaster ride of thrilling action than a series of chucklesome vignettes, but it is nonetheless a constant pleasure.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan, Tom Wu, Bugzy Malone, Samuel West, Danny Griffin, Eliot Sumner, Chidi Ajufo, John Dagleish, Geraldine Somerville, Jason Wong.

 

Dir Guy Ritchie, Pro Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Bill Block, Screenplay Guy Ritchie, from a story by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, Ph Alan Stewart, Pro Des Gemma Jackson, Ed James Herbert, Music Christopher Benstead, Costumes Michael Wilkinson.

 

Miramax-Entertainment Film Dists.

113 mins. UK/USA. 2020. Rel: 1 January 2020. Cert. 18.