“The Gentlemen” Movie Review

     Writer / director Guy Ritchie, whose career began with the upstart 1998 indie film “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, returns to his roots with “The Gentlemen”, a gangster comedy built primarily on the foundation of the filmmaker’s early work.  Once considered one of the hottest young directors in Hollywood, Ritchie has had a number of ups and downs working within the studio system, having churned out everything from the “Sherlock Holmes” films in 2009 and 2011, to the 2019 Disney mega hit “Aladdin”.  In between were big budget efforts like 2015’s revival of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, and a failed attempt at franchise creation with 2017’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”  All the while, it’s fair to say audiences would likely have preferred Ritchie remain within the realm of which he clearly excels, and his latest offering is a strong indication of just how much he has learned along the way.

     “The Gentlemen” is loaded with the same kind of colorful and entertaining characters Ritchie created for his debut feature, as well as his breakout film, 2000’s “Snatch”.  Matthew McConaughey is Mickey Pearson, a high level marijuana grower and distributor working within England’s pot hungry criminal underworld.  And when you’re on top, you can bet there is a line of wannabe gangsters ready to take you down, but Mickey, being the professional he is, always seems to be one step ahead of the regular challenges to his Mary Jane encrusted throne.

     But where there is a will, there is a way.  We meet slimy tabloid reporter Fletcher (Hugh Grant) in the opening sequence, as he begins to lay out his over thought plan to blackmail Mickey for a large sum of money in exchange for not running a story chronicling an extensive investigation into the substantial empire the Hippy Lettuce stalwart has created.  In doing so, he corners Mickey’s right hand man, Ray (Charlie Hunnam), detailing his considerable evidence of which the film visually explores through flashbacks.  In addition, Fletcher has penned a screenplay of the events and offers to throw it in as part of the deal.  Essentially, what Ritchie has concocted here is a movie within a movie. 

     All of this fits around the notion Mickey is ready to retire and is looking for a suitable and wealthy buyer to purchase and ultimately take over his expansive operation.  The laughs seem to come as rapid fire as the frequent gun play, with a hilarious group of characters entering the fray at seemingly every turn.  There’s Mickey’s tough as nails wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), who runs an all girls auto body shop and doesn’t flinch in the slightest when confronted by a number of intimidators sent her way.  A mysterious potential buyer named Matthew (Jeremy Strong) is clearly angling for some sort of play, yet he projects an all business approach that appears to convince Mickey he may have his man.  Others, like Asian gangster Dry Eye (Henry Golding), look to infiltrate their own nefarious plans when it comes to the potential sale of Mickey’s business, but the most damaging threat always circles back to Fletcher and the power he possesses to bring the entire operation down.

     Stealing every scene he is in, Colin Farrell appears mid way through as Coach, an Irish boxing trainer whose pupils make an unexpected visit at one of Mickey’s grow houses.  Save to say, the onus falls directly on the pugilist’s shoulders, allowing him to provide a number of satisfying ways to pay back his debt.  The character is a highlight amongst so many who are well drawn, giving each of the main actors an endless array of scenery chewing opportunities.  So much so that the action is limited to a few notable outbursts, instead favoring the bountiful supply of juicy dialogue provided by what is arguably the filmmaker’s best screenplay.  It is the kind of film only Ritchie could have made.

     As the third act sees the audience caught up to the present, the story is now set up to unravel a series of sub plots set in motion by Fletcher’s storytelling.  Is Matthew who he says he is and are his intentions to buy Mickey’s business genuine?  How big of a threat is Dry Eye to blow up the entire deal via the strong-arm tactics he seems to favor and strike one of his own? Does Fletcher actually have Mickey cornered? Or is the unquestioned leader of the local weed corporation already one step ahead of him as well?  The answers will surprise you, as McConaughey brings forth the lively performance necessary to ensure the audience is squarely behind him, regardless of the fact he operates on the wrong side of the law.  Mickey is the classic anti-hero drawn in the image of several of Ritchie’s other notable characters who constantly live on the edge of prosperity and total disaster.  Which way they end up going is always the best part of any gangster film and “The Gentlemen” is no exception. GRADE: B+