The Gentlemen (2020)
The Gentlemen (2020)

Genre: Crime Comedy and Gangster Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: January 24th, 2020 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Guy Ritchie Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan, Tom Wu, Chidi Ajufo, Simon Barker, Eliot Sumner

 


 

“I

’ll have a pint and a pickled egg.” After a 007-like opening title sequence, brimming with smoke and music and upcoming imagery from the film, private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) surprises longtime acquaintance Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) in the middle of the night. Demanding the reasonable sum of 20 million British pounds to keep quiet, Fletcher lays out a tale of villainous fellows stabbing backs and engaging in turf wars, all involving Raymond, fit for a Hollywood movie. In fact, Fletcher has already typed out a screenplay – included as part of the deal – that details the very plot about to unfold onscreen.

Some time ago, newspaperman Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) was slighted at a high-class party by marijuana kingpin Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), leading to the employment of Fletcher to dig up some dirt on the underworld businessman for an alluring headline piece. During his exhaustive surveillance, Fletcher discovers that well-connected and filthy rich competitor Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) aims to buy Mickey’s entire drug operation for $400 million. But neighboring gangster Dry Eye (Henry Golding), an underling to boss Lord George (Tom Wu), has also made an offer on Mickey’s establishment. And Raymond is caught up in most of it, serving as Pearson’s right-hand man, fixing situations or doing odd jobs for influential politicians. “It’s a good old-fashioned cock-off.”

With Guy Ritchie behind the screenplay and in the director’s chair, it’s not surprising that there are enough twists and turns to fill a hedge maze. And the dialogue runs continuously, leaving virtually no scene silent and few actions un-narrated. Smash-cuts, rapid scene transitions, interruptive asides, and repetitive flashbacks compose hectic editing decisions that heighten the heist-iness. It’s all quite rapid and frantic, with mile-a-minute conversations and interactions overflowing with slang, jokes, and intellectual verbosity. “What’re you talking about now?”

Ritchie returns to his trademark style of storytelling, but he clearly feels he needs to outdo himself. Rather than creating characters that the audience can root for, he opts for colorful, quirky, crass, fashionable, formidable, or stoic personas, most of whom are simply disagreeable or encourage indifference. McConaughey in the lead role is the kind of antihero that isn’t particularly likable; whether or not he gets the upper hand in a topsy-turvy game of deception and manipulation feels unimportant. And Hunnam’s henchman is difficult to read; he’s neither righteous nor clever nor exceptionally skilled, though he’s unwaveringly devoted to his boss. The only marginally sympathetic character is Fletcher, whose purpose is primarily to impart intermittent humor and to narrate. Coach (Colin Farrell), a gym owner who doesn’t want to be involved in crime but ends up conducting a few questionable tasks just the same, is also amusing, though his part is minor and he isn’t even introduced until nearly 40 minutes in. The rest are overly familiar types, from tough guys to glamorous women, and many have minimal involvement; perhaps it’s fairer to say that the two lead characters are the most flavorless of the bunch.

As Fletcher reads out his script, occasionally embellishing things or reiterating details, the movie begins to resemble “Get Shorty” (all while making generous nods to “The Long Good Friday”), particularly with the movie-within-a-movie notes (paired with many of Ritchie’s own, previous gangster film earmarks, awash with fighting, favors, blackmail, cool threats, funny quips, and hard-boiled endeavors). A mystery also unravels during the gangland scuffles, providing comedy and violence and suspense; yet it’s so overwrought that it practically seems routine. The complicatedness isn’t always riveting; sometimes it’s all rather ordinary when ruffians and rascals try to outmaneuver their opponents in unguessable ways. Fortunately, the climax is exciting and the cheekiness is enjoyable, even if the characters themselves fail to inspire enthusiasm. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your mysterious and slightly menacing friend?”

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10