Netflix’s The Gentlemen Is a Stale Retread of Guy Ritchie’s Greatest Hits

After decades of telling the same story, Ritchie’s finally run out of ways to make it feel fresh.

Theo James in The Gentlemen
Inverse Reviews

No matter the genre, no matter the film, you can usually spot a Guy Ritchie project from a mile away. The director of such kinetic, tongue-in-cheek hits as Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a master of his own style. While his methods have been remixed and subverted over the years, retrofitted for costume dramas and the odd romance, Ritchie’s trademark will always be there. He’s a master of telling a new story with the same tried-and-tested ingredients, combining classic tales of misfits with truly innovative visual flourishes.

Surprisingly, that largely fails to translate to Ritchie’s latest endeavor, The Gentlemen. Despite spinning off from one of his most underrated (and casually irreverent) films, the Netflix series doesn’t have the Ritchie touch at all. The main players are there, and the set-up is the same as any other project from the director. But after decades of remixing the same minutiae to tell a different story, Ritchie’s finally run out of ways to make it feel fresh.

The story begins when Eddie Horniman (Theo James), an Army Captain, is forced to abandon his post at the Turkey-Syria border to pay his respects to his dying father. He’s shocked when, upon his return to his stately ancestral home, the Duke of Halstead dies and leaves the entire estate to him.

Eddie’s inheritance is inconvenient for a number of reasons. It’s an (inconceivable) slight to his coke-obsessed failson of an older brother, Freddy (a grating Daniel Ings). But more than that, aristocracy just doesn’t carry the same strength as it once did. Their property, which has been in the family for centuries, is in a state of disrepair. Freddy is drowning in debt, and in deep with a shady criminal enterprise. So it seems like a cruel twist of fate when Eddie is forced to give up his own ambitions to save his family — especially since the only hope of salvation rests in the hands of Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario), a crime boss running her business on the Halstead property.

Like the original Gentlemen, the Netflix series sets the stage in the byzantine world of the drug trade. Susie and her cartel have been quietly producing top-grade marijuana from the safety of Eddie’s estate. She apparently had a cushy deal with Eddie’s dad, and it’s a deal she naturally hopes to continue under the new guard. Of course, Eddie initially pushes back, keen to wipe his hands of any criminal affiliations and restore the Halsteads to glory the old-fashioned way. But when Freddy’s hijinks quickly spiral into an ordeal involving a religious zealot, a chicken suit, and a drug-influenced murder, Eddie and Susie have to team up to clean up the mess.

Genre players like Giancarlo Esposito lend a lot of charm where it counts.


The Gentlemen exists at the nexus of the Guy Ritchie universe, and as such, it seems to touch on every subject that’s ever interested the director. Tracksuit gangs, clandestine turf wars, and off-the-books boxing matches all factor in to this sprawling world of the series. The series also echoes the day-to-day burdens of crime dramas like RockNRolla. As Eddie and Susie labor to keep their respective interests afloat, the pair settle into a reluctant rhythm. Their struggles feel too predictable to keep this story interesting, though — and without any signs of life behind the camera, it’s hard to shake a sense of deja vu.

Apart from a sprinkle of zippy, irreverent visuals, The Gentlemen is way too tame for its own good. The director’s kinetic action is few and far between, and whenever things reach a particularly violent head, Ritchie seems all too eager to cut away or diminish its impact. For a series that’s meant to specialize in high stakes and volatile personalities, The Gentlemen doesn’t actually seem interested in any of it. Nor does its cast, talented as they are, ever manage to rise above the monotony.

For all its interest in a fish-out-of-water story, The Gentlemen lacks a sense of novelty.


James and Scodelario are only a fitting match because both seem utterly bored with the material. As Eddie, James is ostensibly on autopilot — and while Scodelario eventually makes the most of a meaty arc in the back half of the season, it comes way too late to make an actual impact. There are, of course, high points: genre stalwarts like Giancarlo Esposito and Vinnie Jones ooze charm whenever they’re onscreen, while Michael Vu steals the show as Susie’s endearing and clueless weed guy. All the ingredients of a good series are there... we’ve just seen it executed better in another Ritchie project.

Perhaps the director is too comfortable in this world. Perhaps he’s run out of dark corners to explore. Either way, it’s time for Ritchie to move on to greener pastures — if not to keep us entertained, then to bring some spark back to his ouevre.

The Gentlemen premieres all eight episodes on Netflix on March 7.

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