At a swanky party, tabloid editor Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) is snubbed by cannabis baron Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). In revenge, he hires investigative reporter Fletcher (Hugh Grant) to dig up some dirt on Mickey. However, with his investigation complete, Fletcher offers to sell his findings (comically typed up as a screenplay called ‘Bush’) to Mickey Pearson’s right-hand man (as played by Charlie Hunnam) – but will he take the bait?
... with a double twist too many, the hard-won admiration of its earlier acts needlessly attracts penalties as it goes into extra time.
In returning to the cockney gangster pastures of old, you could be forgiven for feeling concerned about director Guy Ritchie’s latest movie ‘ The Gentlemen’. Will it be a vintage romp like ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels‘ and ‘Snatch‘ or an incoherent mess like ‘RocknRolla‘? As it turns out, it’s neither. In another riotous ensemble piece about a drug-lord facing off attacks from all sides, ‘The Gentlemen’ instead lands as a pleasingly, deft combination of ‘The Long Good Friday’ meets Matthew Vaughn’s ‘Layer Cake‘.
In the key part of narrator, as normally occupied by Jason Statham, new incumbent Hugh Grant ditches his posh stammering accent for a guttural sleaze-bag of a tabloid journalist. Clearing relishing his revenge on a profession that has actually tormented him in real-life, no depth is too low for Hugh’s muck-raking investigative journalist to go to. The key audience for his salacious silage though is a similarly on-form Charlie Hunnam. Trading not on his looks or physique, his performance of Raymond the consigliere has the measured gruffness of a geography teacher quickly running out of patience. As a trait more violently shared by his boss/wannabe lord-of-the-manor Mickey Pearson, Matthew McConaughey is also allowed to dial it up when unduly ruffled and then drawl it out when a threat is better served. Married to him is Michelle Dockery as a stick-thin, career criminal wife whose razor-sharp East End accent clearly never had to do the dishes. And if all this wasn’t enough including the ever-entertaining presence of Eddie Marsan as a belligerent tabloid boss Big Dave, Colin Farrell arrives mid-way through to steal every scene he’s gifted. Hilariously mugging off anybody unfortunate enough to be thrown opposite him, his bespectacled, trackie-wearing boxing trainer ‘Coach’ is the stuff of deadpan genius. Despairingly trying to do right by a bunch of wayward protégés who regularly do wrong, his is the Brad Pitt award for theft whilst in the services of supporting actor.
So, by this time this is all sounding pretty good, yes? The cast is clearly having a ball, the dialogue, although not as quotable as the snap n’ crackle of ‘Snatch‘, is still acidly on point and the plot is the normal helter-skelter of cause and effect we’ve come to expect from Guy Ritchie as his characters scrabble about in the dirt whilst reaching for the stars.
Where ‘The Gentlemen’ sadly forgets its manners is in its running time. By adding a double twist too many, the hard-won admiration of its earlier acts needlessly attracts penalties as it goes into extra time. Add to this also the absence of the normally ear-worm infused soundtrack and ‘The Gentlemen’ becomes an individually rewarding experience that sadly goes on just a shade too long.
Rich and ribald, Guy Ritchie’s latest is nonetheless an enjoyable romp from start to finish. See if for the slightly over-egged soufflé that it is and delight in the performance of Hugh Grant shedding his past and ripping up your expectations of what he might do next.