It has finally come to the era where Guy Ritchie is popularly known more as the director of big-budgeted blockbusters. His name is almost immediately associated with the lots like Disney’s live-action Aladdin or Sherlock Holmes saga, or else to second-tier gigs like the adaptation of The Man from UNCLE or the fizzle King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The era of Ritchie’s reputation as the director of foul-mouthed, gangster-and-gun crime movies like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch has long gone; even, Rocknrolla (2008) has already been labeled as a welcome-back flick. His recent tenure, The Gentlemen, starring Matthew McConaughey and Charlie Hunnam, channels the energy which the director manifested in his early careers. With some jabs and jolts of popcorn entertainment, however, it comes with a real homage to his early movies.
The Gentlemen gets Ritchie jumping head first to the mud of underworld crime world where, as McConaughey’s Mickey Pearson implied, is governed with the jungle law. Pearson is an American ex-pat who is building a premium marijuana kingdom under the lands of Britain’s aristocrats. The marijuana-lord plans to step down from his throne to live a full life with his wife, Ros (Michelle Dockery). While he aims to sell his empire to another American in London, Matthew (Jeremy Strong), an ambitious Chinese triad, Dry Eye (Henry Golding), is also seeking the empire for himself. That’s where The Gentlemen wreaks havoc for almost two whole hours.
As in Ritchie’s early works, the narrative uses hyperlinks to interconnecting multiple storylines at once narrated by a single narrator. What makes it somehow different this time is, the narrator—somehow unreliable—frames the stories with little dramatizations and imagination to blackmail Pearson’s consigliere, Ray (Charlie Hunnam). The narrator is a quirky private eye named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) who works for a tabloid mogul, Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), who is keen to take down Pearson’s business over a personal grudge. Tangled in the already convoluted thread is Coach (Colin Farrell), a gym-coach who trains finest London’s street fighters, who happen to rob Pearson’s properties. What makes the whole framing unpredictable is the fact that Fletcher is proposing the story which he drafted into a screenplay when the “story” hasn’t actually finished.
Straight from a Disney PG (which becomes the director’s most profitable gig by far), Ritchie takes a rather radical turn with a violent endeavor. The narrative’s jump from one moment to another is fueled with dynamic editing which becomes the guide even when the story sometimes takes a pause or some deliberate detour. It’s messed up and convoluted but it’s deliberate. Adorned with a series of c-bombs and a slapstick sense of humor which you might not have seen recently, The Gentlemen feels like a nostalgic tour to the director’s finest era. The action never really explodes but the implications of it make real impacts without landing actual punches. The closest thing to action scenes in this movie is some street-level pursuit level. But, when you’re looking for graphic sequences, these gentlemen have a lot of unstomachable moments without giving explicit slaughters.
Whilst McConnaisance is no longer a thing, McConaughey’s role in Ritchie’s filthy tale is limited to as a subject of Fletcher’s boastful antics. Grant’s Fletcher, in the end, is the one who steals the whole show. At one point, the character even goes as far as pitching an idea to Miramax. Hunnam’s Ray a.k.a. Ray-mundo appears to be more feisty than Hunnam’s Arthur. Golding and Farrell, albeit relegated to the backdrop, still inject decency to the whole narrative. In a story about several characters colliding in one snowballing crash, the ensemble pretty much does the job effectively. If there’s any lacking in The Gentlemen, it would be the tendency not to go all out. There’s definitely a hold barred.