‘The Gentlemen’ is strictly a guys’ night out
Another decade, another Guy Ritchie “reset.” After the director crashed onto the scene in 1999 with the delightfully chaotic “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” the following year, Ritchie went on to a series of flicks with diminishing returns (“Swept Away” with then-wife Madonna, “Revolver” and “RocknRolla”). In 2009, though, he took on the commercially successful “Sherlock Holmes” reboot that afforded him the chance to dabble in lesser-known projects, such as “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and the ill-fated “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”
But, like clockwork, he returned in 2019 to take on a big-budget payday, directing the live-action remake of “Aladdin.” Ritchie used the commercial cred to head back to his Cockney rogue roots with “The Gentlemen,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, and Colin Farrell.
Ritchie breaks no new ground here; in fact, “The Gentlemen’s” gentlemen look to inhabit the same cinematic universe as his earlier, similarly flavored flicks: corrupt con men, underworld underlings and haute couture hustlers all gambling for their own piece of the action, using whatever dubious means it takes to get it.
Grant plays Fletcher, a tacky tabloid reporter who happened upon some information he brings to Raymond (played by Hunnam), a right-hand goon for Mickey (played by McConaughey), an American cannabis king who runs a veritable empire throughout the UK. Fletcher seems to think he has an upper hand as he unspools his own narrative of what he thinks might be next for the entire criminal empire, and he believes Raymond might be willing to pay him a large chunk of change to shut up and go away.
Of course, there are countless complications that may spoil Fletcher’s visions of walking away with a fat sum of cash ... or even alive. Narratively, it’s not all that complicated, but the simplicity leaves time for Ritchie to garnish the flick with visual flair, and more importantly, allows its leads to sink their teeth into their respective roles.
Even though he’s front and center in all marketing, McConaughey is mostly subdued and only sporadically flashes onto the screen. This gives more time at the plate for benchwarmers such as Hunnam, Farrell, Golding, and Grant.
And while Hunnam and Golding happily sprint about, tossing out tough-guy truisms, the film’s true standouts are Grant and Farrell, who roar in their respective roles, demonstrating a devil-may-care delivery that gobbles up every scene in which they star.
Grant, as the dandy reporter, happily dances atop his decades-old tradition of playing fluttery-eyed fussbudgets in rotten rom-coms, and Farrell brings back his “In Bruges” charisma as a good-hearted, bad-ass boxing coach trying to help right the wrongs of the area youth, even if it means taking out a few nasty characters along the way.
Poor Michelle Dockery has a sliver of screen as Mickey’s weed-empire wife, but even though they toughen her character, “The Gentlemen” is strictly a guys’ night out.
Ritchie still has an ear for blasphemous, half-witted reprobates, and while his style is gussied up since the days of “Lock, Stock,” the real treat here is watching the leads dress up and play tough guys for a spell, even when we know that it’s not going to end well for many of them.