By almost any metric, Guy Ritchie's The Gentlemen is not a movie I could recommend in good conscience. Coated in casual racism and populated by reprehensible characters, The Gentlemen should be a disgusting, unpleasant experience. But heavens, it is not. The Gentlemen is fun. The Gentlemen is a riot. The Gentlemen has the most style I've seen from Guy Ritchie, and it's his most quintessential "Guy Ritchie movie" since The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
The Gentlemen is 2020's first real knock-out that comes out the gate swinging with infectious bravado and attitude, you can't help but love it, no matter how obnoxious.
In theaters now, The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie's latest movie after last year's forgotten billion-dollar Disney hit Aladdin. Set in contemporary London, the film follows a network of criminals, principally Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an affluent American weed dealer; Coach (Colin Farrell), a Scottish boxing coach who oversees a restless group of youths; and Dry Eye (Henry Golding), a vicious twenty-something Chinese Triad boss who wants to buy out Pearson. The whole tale is told second-hand by Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a slimy investigator hired by a tabloid to blackmail Pearson. Fletcher has chronicled his findings into a screenplay, which he offers to sell to Pearson's right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) for 20 million Euros.
The achievement of The Gentlemen is its sheer audacity to be offensive, with intelligent wit. In one of its best jokes, a minor character with the Vietnamese name "Phuc" is tied up in the trunk of a car and told to "Calm the Phuuuuc down" by Colin Farrell's bewildered Scotsman. Maybe it's Farell's delivery. Maybe it's the simplicity of a foreign name sounding like English profanity. Maybe it's both. Ultimately, there's magic in the moment that conjures laughter, even against one's better judgment.
I cannot stress enough how The Gentlemen is not for the sensitive. I don't mean in the conservative "Suck it up, snowflake" way, even if it is bizarre to see the lone principal Asian character be nicknamed "The Dragon." I mean, The Gentlemen has a way of clawing at the deep recesses of one's brain where you decide what's acceptable and not. The movie isn't smutty, nor is it especially violent, but it is all attitude.
Like Hugh Grant's Fletcher, The Gentlemen sneaks into your kitchen, pours itself a glass of your whiskey, and pokes and prods at you for its own amusement.
The Gentlemen sneaks into your kitchen, pours itself a glass of your whiskey, and pokes and prods at you for its own amusement
The worst I can say about Ritchie's film is that it seems to lack a point. Yeah, it's crude, and yeah, it's loaded with quotable one-liners. (The ones that aren't racist, anyway.) Even its general lack of an actual plot can be forgiven just because it plays so much with storytelling form. But however skilled and sharp the film runs, there's a dull edge at the end that left me feeling wanting more.
No spoilers, but some characters get their comeuppance while others don't. Yet everyone is monstrous, and there's something uneven in the resolution that obscures precisely whatever it is Guy Ritchie wants to get at with this universe.
But hey, it's pretty funny when a guy realizes he's fucked a pig. Gross. But funny.
Right now, The Gentlemen is one of the best movies of 2020. But there's still eleven months left in the calendar to decide whether The Gentlemen will stay one of the best movies of the year. It's set a hell of a bar, all thanks to the visual pizazz and hypnotic rhythm of its ridiculous script. But a skosh smarter movie with an ounce more meaning to its story will unseat it before long. Still, a year after working for the Disney machine, The Gentlemen is a welcome return to form for one of Hollywood's most ruthlessly cockney artists.
The Gentlemen is in theaters now.