Written, Directed and Produced by Guy Ritchie
December 3, 2019 (Curzon Mayfair Cinema) / January 1, 2020 (United Kingdom) / January 24, 2020 (United States)
An American marijuana kingpin living in England has decided to sell his business and this sets off a chain of blackmail and other schemes to undermine him.
I must say right away I have a soft spot for British crime films. They do such a better job in the genre than American films do these days. Even their worst ones are more enjoyable right now. The characters are much more interesting and varied and the situations much more entertaining.
The Gentlemen has all the standard Guy Ritchie hallmarks you would expect. And that is not a bad thing. We have a fairly complicated yet unusually easy to follow story with quirky and shady characters with great dark humor that flows effortlessly. Guy Ritchie is a master at it, and he ranks as one of my favorite directors at this point. I admit I did not warm to him at first but too many people gushed heavily over the man and I find that a little off putting. It felt like overselling. My loss because now I am playing catch-up on his catalogue.
This is a world filled with terrible people. Nobody is truly nice or good. Some are worse than others. Matthew McConaughey’s Michael ‘Mickey’ Pearson is just so cold and intimidating. He is threatening without being over the top or explosive. Each word and action is measured and even. Pearson understands how to maintain his position and survive. Pearson is not necessarily the “bad guy” here. He understands the gravity of the scenario for the movie though. As he says “You must be the King. And there can be no doubt. Because doubt causes chaos and one’s own demise.”
The only person Pearson seems to have any real feelings towards is his wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) who appears to be a bit of a guiding force in Mickey’s operation or perhaps just a guide overall. I was left with the impression that his wife wore the pants in the relationship so to speak. Harm to her or threats to her are not something Mickey will tolerate and as demonstrated towards the end of the film; it is something that he will exact bloody revenge over.
Charlie Hunnam in general is a bit of an unknown to me. I never got into Sons of Anarchy and I have not seen his turn in King Arthur, but I did see him in the fantastic Pacific Rim. The man obviously has some ability because he keeps getting work. I was impressed with his turn as Pearson’s right hand man Raymond Smith. He is a villainous character that you could almost see yourself doing business with.
Then there is Hugh Grant as the reporter Fletcher who tries to blackmail Pearson for £20m with everything he knows. For years I avoided anything containing Hugh Grant like the bubonic plague. All I could think of him was as an annoying actor from umpteen romantic comedies who was always a charmingly befuddled British gentleman. Then I saw him in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and I saw an actor do something I did not expect him to do. And honestly it made me start to reevaluate him. I found an appreciation for his work and I am now looking to add more of his movies to my collection. In fact, I added Love Actually to my collection just because of him.
Grant is more than a little shifty but also charming as Fletcher who is not only blackmailing Mickey but also attempting to sell him a movie script in the deal as a bonus. Weird. It gets a little meta right there in my opinion, but it works in this quirky universe Ritchie creates. The information imparted to Raymond by Fletcher turns the first 2/3 of the film into a little more than a flashback story.
Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) is a fellow criminal, and the person Pearson has lined up to purchase his operation. As described he is a Berkeley loving, cheese wiz wannabe millionaire who is perhaps the film’s chief villain. He is more worried about screwing someone else’s business over to drive down the price and did not cared who died in the process. Along with the curiously named Dry Eye (Henry Golding) he engages in a plot that brings in an eclectic array of characters on both sides of the story.
There is also a group of YouTubing wannabe rappers called The Toddlers who are also MMA fighters coached by a man only ever called, well, Coach (Colin Farrell). There is a tabloid paper owner who employs Fletcher named Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) who is drugged into having sex with a pig. Yep. Dry Eye henchman Phuc (Jason Wong). An Asian crime lord called Lord George (Tom Wu). Just an intriguing mix of unique characters.
I need to focus on Colin Farrell a moment. The man is a great actor. His performances range from solid to fantastic. He never lets the material down. I cannot think of a film of his I have seen that he is actually bad in. The issue is that he gets in movies that are not that good. I am not sure who is agent is, but they need to be dropped. This is a very good film that Farrell managed to get in and it is a role that would normally go to a less attractive character actor. I am just saying the man needs a better agent to get him better roles that showcase his talents like they are here.
We got a snappy and smoothly flowing script here. You anticipate what darkly weird thing will come next like the guy in the freezer or the fight porn rap group that raids the secret pot operation and so on. The dialogue is amazing. The cast is great and each one turns in amazing performances at the hands of Guy Ritchie who knows his way around British crime drama.
Fun fact: I read that the film was shot under the name ‘Bush’ which is the same name Fletcher uses for the script he is trying to sell. I guess this was an attempt to get even more meta by implying that the movie was the result of an implied meeting at Miramax that happens at the end of the film.
The Gentleman is a great film. It has twists and turns and is a fun ride with fantastic characters in a great story. Watch it!