More noise than signal

The Gentlemen

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

There was a time, maybe a decade ago, where saying “A Guy Ritchie film” was pretty much a review in and of itself. Of course, now that particular church has been broadened to include the likes of the Sherlock Holmes films, and, of all things, Aladdin, further description is required. Although, if you simply pretend the last ten years didn’t happen, this is very much a straight line continuation of the Lock Stock and Snatch bloodline.

The Gentlemen is a story told in large part by Hugh Grant’s sleazy tabloid journalist Fletcher, relating the rise, and potential fall, of drug kingpin Mickey Pearson, played by Matthew McConaughey, to Fletcher’s lieutenant, Charlie Hunnam’s Raymond. And, well, that pulls in a whole lot of other characters and plot strands that, in classic Ritchie fashion, snowball together into a big old mess of convenience and coincidence which is fun to watch, but sounds like a cross between madness and nonsense if repeated.

Some of those characters include Michelle Dockery as Rosalind Pearson, Mickey’s partner and equal in the business and personal senses, Eddie Marsan as Big Dave, the rabid tabloid editor seeking Mickey’s downfall, Colin Farrell as Coach, a gym trainer with unsettlingly efficient grasp of gangland mechanics trying to get his young charges out of trouble with Mickey caused by the machinations of Henry Golding’s Dry Eye, a Triad rival who’s trying to muscle in on Mickey’s operations.

Now, popular opinion would be that Guy Ritchie very much lost his mojo after going back to the well of knockabout London gangland crime comedies too often. To be honest, even if Revolver isn’t a patch on Lock Stock, given that the market was not otherwise saturated with similar outings I could have gladly watched a mediocre Ritchie outing every two years without complaining, but his time away from the cockney coalface has certainly built up an anticipation for this. And, to be honest, I’m as surprised as you are to report that it’s pretty much delivered on all fronts.

Now, it’s not high art, of course, and no, it’s not as good as Snatch or Lock Stock, but it’s much closer to them than Revolver or Rocknroller. Of all things, it’s probably Hugh Grant that’s stealing the show here, playing wildly and hilariously against type. The rest of the cast are dependably excellent, and it has the usual Ritchie punchy pacing and funny, excessively sweary dialogue. I think he’s been saving up his cussing budget over the last decade and spent it all on this film.

It’s not perfect, but largely in ways that don’t matter – the narrative doesn’t hold a lot of water, but it’s a bucket wide enough to contain the characters and bounce them off each other in funny ways. And, well, it’s a comedy, what more do you want from it? It’s so good it even survives the most ludicrous piece of product placement I’ve ever seen. To my surprise, well worth watching.