Lots of people are reviewing The Gentlemen, like my friends over at YouTube, so I definitely need to toss my review onto the pile before it’s too late. Director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels), returns to the big screen with a new film called The Gentlemen, starring… wow, what a list: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell & Hugh Grant, among others.
Right off the bat, what I’ll say is this is a real movie. A real movie movie. It’s not CGI spectacle. It’s cinematography, story, dialog, structure, acting, costume, mise-en-scene, all of the things you’d want to talk about when talking about film, and between the cinema-language laden monologues of Hugh Grant’s character, Fletcher, and the movie-pitch setting of the epilogue, it’s self-aware that it’s a firm entry into a new cinema landscape that is trying to bring a return to form to the industry. A trend that most people will credit to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Todd Phillips’ recent Joker, but I think actually really began with Jordan Peele’s blockbuster-busting cinematic outing, Us.
Let’s talk about the movie. I’d be doing The Gentlemen a disservice if I didn’t mention in the review upfront that I think the movie was fantastic. I was a Guy Ritchie fan to begin with — his previous work, the aforementioned Snatch and Lock Stock, showcase his ability to create compelling characters, stylish yet practical dialog and complex, yet cohesive and easy to follow plots structures. As much as I love Snatch, I think that The Gentlemen took everything Guy Ritchie excels at and turned it up to 11. I found it to be an excellent movie, and, in my mind, my favorite movie since I’ve seen since 2012’s surprise underdog classic Nightcrawler.
Let me take a moment to count the ways in which this movie was well done. Beginning with the cast, every character in this movie is both well-cast, meaning the casting director made a fantastic choice for the character, and also well-executed by a dizzying ensemble of amazing actors.
Matthew McConaughey’s gruff class embodies the idea of the film’s character Michael, the rags-to-riches king of the British drug world. McConaughey has come a long way from being a romcom love interest to an actor’s actor, and this movie, I feel, is a sort of peak in terms of that transition which began with 2012’s Mud — he’s now fully in the ‘cinema-kid’ clique in movie world.
Hunnam, best known for his role as Jax in Sons of Anarchy (which I liked), is now fulfilling a role as McConaughey’s shrewd and capable right-hand-man, Ray, that 5 years ago would have gone to Christoph Waltz and doing excellently with it. Hunnam possessed the same kind of quality Jax had in Sons of Anarchy, which was a sort of ability to express being collected on the surface, but dangerous just beneath.
Hugh Grant leans into his public perception as sort of a sleazy element by portraying a slick character that has grey morals of mercenary loyalty in a criminal underworld defined by moral codes. Fletcher’s dialog actually makes up the majority of the movie since he’s the pseudo-unreliable narrator, and Hugh Grant delivers some incredibly clever lines with a lot of flair, charisma and character.
Finally, Colin Farrell, who’s also been transitioning to more artistic roles such as in his role alongside Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths, does a great job as a supporting actor, playing a coach who’s bound by loyalty to his students and his moral code to work alongside Hunnam’s Ray.
Actors aside, I feel the need mention for this review that The Gentlemen possesses some incredibly inventive dialog and some very memorable scenes. The “fight porn video” is something that, on its own, probably would have made for a reasonably successful YouTube video; Mickey’s meeting with a Chinese mob boss is unforgettable; and Ray’s ongoing conversation with Fletcher which makes for the backbone of the film’s structure provides a strong foundation on which to build the entire movie.
At its core, it’s a movie about loyalty and trust. All the bad guys are defined by their disloyalty and their underhandedness, whereas our heroes all have a high level of gangster’s honor: they’re loyal to their allies, they’re upfront about what they plan to do, and they do what they say they’re going to do. McConaughey’s character is defined by his loyalty to his wife. Hunnam’s Ray is defined by his loyalty to Michael. Farrell’s Coach is defined by his loyalty to his proteges. Legal elements aside, we’re given a cast of characters with a lot of admirable qualities, with loyalty being centered in heavy bold and italics.
I really enjoyed this movie. All the CGI in the world couldn’t have made this a better film. Guy Ritchie is well-known as a talented filmmaker and what he’s released here is not only great on its own merits, but perfectly timed for the zeitgeist of what film needs right now: a capital ‘F’ Film that has mainstream appeal that really makes an argument for the components beyond visual novelty and spectacle that make a movie truly push up against the boundaries of what makes something art vs. product.
I highly recommend The Gentlemen.
That’s it for my review of Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen which is in theaters now. Be sure to check out the Movies & TV section for more reviews like this and follow me on Twitter to stay up to date with all our entertainment coverage.