“There’s only one rule in the jungle: when the lion’s hungry, he eats…”
I was going to start this review by talking about how Guy Ritchie’s most recent films have all been fine. Not great, not rubbish, but fine. Then, I checked his IMDB page and discovered a number of disconcerting things. Firstly, I haven’t seen a Guy Ritchie film since Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in 2011. Secondly, Guy Ritchie has only made three films since then and thirdly, and perhaps most alarmingly, his most recent film before The Gentlemen was Disney’s live action remake of Aladdin. How has this passed me by? I knew there had been a live action version of Aladdin, but I had no idea that the man who made his name in the world of gritty British gangster flicks was now in charge of flying carpets and blue genies. It seems an odd mix. Anyway, what film is this again? Ahh yes, The Gentlemen…
Following his baffling foray into the world of Disney, Guy Ritchie has returned to his roots with a rollicking tale of guns, drugs and extreme violence. Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) runs the weed game in London. When Mickey’s right hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam) receives a visit from Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sinister and enigmatic journalist with links to the underworld, the serene life of Mickey Pearson is turned upside down.
The Gentleman is a straight forward gangster yarn that takes in various familiar tropes and director trademarks. Dead body in a fridge, sharp tongued gangster’s moll, east european thugs, it’s all there. What makes Guy Ritchie’s return to the gangster genre so successful is that he is the man who helped to cement some of these tropes in the first place. Ritchie has earned his right to go back to basics, and when he is firing on all cylinders, as with the early verbal sparring match between Hugh Grant and Charlie Hunnam, there is nobody better. Sure, the film loses its way a little towards the end and the conclusion tries a touch too hard to incorporate a twist, but overall The Gentlemen is just a whole lot of fun. Just ask Hugh Grant, playing against type as a gay, cockney weasel and playing it beautifully. Or Michelle Dockery who has a lot of fun as Rosalind, the brains of the operation and McConaughey’s muse. Or even ask Colin Farrell who, freed from the terrible burden of having to put on an accent, gives his most entertaining performance in years.
The Gentleman is Ritchies first out and out gangster film since 2005’s underrated Revolver. It is no coincidence that it is also his best film since then too. Let’s hope he chooses to stick around the grimy streets of London for a while.