The opening of Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen feels like a Lincoln commercial, thanks in part to a suit-clad Matthew McConaughey droning on about a lion’s duties in the jungle. You can’t help but think that Ritchie will pan the camera over to the sleek glass curtain walls of a Lincoln dealership. Instead, the audience is met with a casual London pub, where protagonist Mickey orders himself a pint.
McConaughey plays Mickey Pearson, a refined American Oxford graduate who coolly sits atop an illegal marijuana empire in London, which he plans on liquidating. Things are complicated by tabloid blackmail and neighboring drug lords attempting to swipe his fortune out from under him. McConaughey’s Pearson is joined by Ray (Charlie Hunnam) the archetypal loyal second hand, and Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a journalist who is pitching a movie script idea to Ray. Fletcher dictates the plot details of his script to Ray, which also doubles as narration for the audience in a fascinating sort of meta-cinema. Although the technique isn’t anything groundbreaking, it breathes a little vibrancy into a familiar crime story plot with the usual betrayals and redemptions. The sparse use of guns thanks to the film’s London setting also spices up the narrative and makes for some inventive action scenes.
Also coloring the narrative is Ritchie’s knack for witty comedic dialogue and situational humor. A simple target retrieval goes wrong in the darkest, most hilarious way, and a stomach bug used as an intimidation technique are just some of the ways Ritchie lights up the story. There’s also Coach (Colin Farrell), who steals nearly all of the scenes he’s in with his comic matter-of-factness and dad-like apparel. The race jokes, however, feel unfunny and dated in an increasingly progressive cultural climate, especially when paired with the unnecessary use of the term “chinaman” laced throughout the film.
Ritchie’s film offers fun moments, and some witty dialogue slathered on what still feels like an overdone crime narrative. Overall, Ritchie doesn’t offer enough to go out of your way to see this film, and the suited eye candy in the film means a Valentine’s date with this movie in the background might not be a wise decision. Instead wait on the streaming release.
Mathew Messa is an intern for the Film Studies Program. He’s a film critic in training and a David Lynch super fan.