Guy Ritchie is one of the many filmmakers who gained respect for their original films, after which they received a call from Hollywood. They recorded something good there and then got bogged down in the mire of mediocrity or clichés, so they wouldn’t even want to stay there anymore, and they can’t (don’t want to) even go back to their roots. Do you know what film was made before this one by the man who made Snatch or RocknRolla? If you don’t know, I’ll tell you – it’s Aladdin, a feature remake of the animated film of the same name.
Yes, you read that right. A man who gained a reputation for his films dealing with the street philosophies of London found himself in a situation where he is dealing with modern Disney adaptations in order to save his career and fill his pocket in the process. But recently something clicked in his head, he decided to gather a very charismatic team of actors and make a film that will remind of his early works. That’s how we got The Gentlemen.
The plot of the film follows Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), a man who came to London as a student and stayed there to make money by selling marijuana to rich colleagues. Over time, he acquired an empire and the status of a very inconvenient boss, but in his opinion it is time to retire, so he decides to sell everything to the tycoon Matthew (Jeremy Strong). That decision of his will start a team of dubious types from the underground who see in the new situation an opportunity to earn some pounds through conspiracies, schemes, bribery and blackmail…
The Gentlemen is a true throwback to Ritchie’s earlier films dominated by eccentric characters who have varying degrees of understanding of the criminal schemes currently unfolding. As expected, the entire film can be considered one continuous joke in which a good deal of information is presented without context, in order to wrap it up in the final third of the film. The film has a structure in which we get information retroactively from the narrator, and at the moment of telling his story, we are not even sure if Mickey Pearson is alive or dead.
The flow of the script is guided by some rule to get an answer to a previously established mystery, and then some unexpected twist arrives that makes us question which of these dubious characters has the upper hand. Ritchie doesn’t deal too much with their elaborations and even Mickey Pearson is rather simplistic for someone who everything revolves around, which is understandable since a good number of characters face sudden death. It can be said that the character of the private detective Fletcher, who is very vividly represented by Hugh Grant and who is the narrator of the story, is the most important in the film. As much as our attention is occupied by technical solutions, it also refers to his ability to tell stories, because it seems that he is more important than the story itself. I say this because he is an unreliable narrator who simply makes things up when he is missing some information, so the story is more exciting than it objectively is.
The characters are created with the intention of being eccentric and interesting, that through their appearance or interactions there is a comic line that will generate humor, and the script is full of sarcastic lines. The personalities of the characters are blurred for the sake of the narrative, but there are moments when they get a chance to breathe, like when Ray (Charlie Hunnam) uses his calm demeanor to intimidate heroin addicts or when a boxing tenor (Colin Farrell) puts himself in danger to save young men from that he cares about. It’s enough for people like McConaughey to show up—his characters don’t need elaboration to command our attention whenever they’re on screen.
From the technical side, Richi offers us an attack on all the senses, which can only admit defeat. The film has parts that leave you breathless, what with the image, what with the sound, what with the way they are combined. All the recognizable Ritchie elements are there – a sense of style, non-linear storytelling, intertwining stories, sudden violence, colorful characters, but this film is objectively far from Snatch. Compared to it, it feels like too much easy fun, but then again, it’s one of the few recent films I plan to watch again – it’s not Richie’s fault that he set a standard with his first two films that he can’t even reach.