Cinematic Releases: The Gentlemen (2020) - Reviewed

After becoming the last person anyone was expecting to be tasked with directing a live action remake of Disney’s Aladdin, British writer-director Guy Ritchie makes a bold return to the genre which put him on the map in the first place: the action-comedy crime genre.  His last swipe at the genre comprised of snappy dialogue, cool if not crass characters and unexpected brutality aided by an ensemble cast was 2008’s RocknRolla before taking on the updated Sherlock Holmes franchise and hitting a financial rut with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  Love him or hate him (I myself am somewhere in the middle), Guy Ritchie’s self-stylized brand of cult crime cinema isn’t going away anytime soon and for aficionados (and detractors) his latest offering The Gentlemen represents another familiar genre exercise from the iconoclastic writer-director.

The typically overloaded ensemble cross-cutting narrative this time around focuses on Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), head of a marijuana empire who finds himself in the middle of a business turf war with varied gangsters trying to pilfer his profits.  Co-starring an ensemble cast featuring Ritchie regular Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant, the Miramax production is another Ritchie offering consisting of double-crossing, sneaky twists and grand revelations all told through the underpinnings of urbane cool mixed in with cockney dialect.  Far more interested in manner than the plot developments, though there are many surprises ahead, The Gentlemen is less about the story than it is about the personality of Mr. Ritchie. 

Reportedly McConaughey was frustrated initially with Ritchie’s approach but gradually came into his own on set and the character makes you wonder where his hero from The Beach Bum may have ended up if he got himself together.  One surprising addition to the world of Ritchie was Michelle Dockery, fresh off Downton Abbey who makes a startling adjustment to the crassness and violence defining the world of a Ritchie film.  Also new to Ritchie’s underworld is Colin Farrell who fits in nicely with the director’s brand of cockney sass.  Hugh Grant, returning from The Man from U.N.C.L.E., clearly is having a lot of fun with Ritchie’s dialogue.  This is one of those movies where whether you’re on board with Ritchie’s film or not, you can tell the cast is enjoying themselves here.

The Gentlemen won’t woo detractors over to Ritchie’s side but will provide serviceable entertainment for longstanding devotees.  As an action-comedy crime film the narrative interlocking threads and chronological jumping ala Tarantino can be confusing for some.  As a Ritchie film, it’s one of his stronger and more accessible ones in some time and for fans a welcome return to form.  Not for everyone but for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fans, not to be missed!

--Andrew Kotwicki