A while back, I was hanging out with a friend. This basically involved both of us staring at the TV making pointless observations. At one point, an advertisement for Arby's Bacon Beef 'N Cheddar Sandwich came on. As it played, my friend, unexcitedly stated, "I've had that. It's not too bad."
"Not too bad" is how I'd describe Guy Ritchie's return to the British gangster genre that made him famous. The Gentlemen is not as engaging as Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels but still, it's not too bad.
I laughed at times and there were some truly fun moments … but I'm curious if I'll remember it in three months. I've always had the same mild reaction to Ritchie's more heralded movies. I usually enjoy Ritchie's films as pleasant diversions, directed by a guy who is a fan of gangster flicks like Get Carter and flicks by some film geek director (Tarantino) currently up for an Oscar.
Since his career kicked into high gear, Ritchie has been viewed by some as the U.K. answer to America's Quentin Tarantino. I'd say he's no '90s Tarantino, but his first films do employ some of the same hallmarks — jolts of violence and monologues by quirky, pop culture-referencing criminals.
In The Gentleman, marijuana kingpin Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is pondering an exit from the business. When word gets out in the London underworld, a slew of criminals come out of the woodwork to take him, his wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and his right-hand man, Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), down.
Who are the criminals? Well, schemers such as an oily detective named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) hired by Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), a tabloid editor with an axe to grind. You have gangsters like Lord George (Tom Wu) and underboss Dry Eye (Henry Golding), sketchy millionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) and The Toddlers, a young gang led by Coach (Colin Ferrell). They're all doing their best to undermine Pearson's operation.
The Gentlemen has been billed as a return to the genre and a reintroduction of Ritchie's cinematic voice. And it is. It definitely cues the verbose ridiculousness that people loved in his first few films. I wasn't bored, it goes strong at points.
The performances are pretty spot-on, but then again there was never any question when you load your film with a great cast that seems to be having fun.
I don't have much bad to say. It's stylish, breezy, and the music is kinda cool.
I'm just not the target demo, so it didn't have the impact on me it may have on others. If it weren't for the appearance of a grime music sequence courtesy of Bugzy Malone and a social media angle, the film could have easily been set in a different decade. It feels like it could have been released around the same time Ritchie's standards. Which brings me to my gripe.
(Surprise, surprise Admiral Suckthejoyoutoftheroom has gripes.)
For starters, why are racial slurs directed at the Chinese characters? It reminded me of some of the more annoying post-Tarantino movies out there like The Boondock Saints and, for some odd reason, gave me visions of Mountain Dew-chugging shock jocks bemoaning political correctness. It would make sense if it had a point or if it was a movie from another era, but here it just felt like forced edginess.
The movie can be clever, but it's not as clever as it thinks it is.
Characters give a lot of exposition with so much information that it's hard to keep up at points. The story's overstuffed twists get in the way of the characters we should be emotionally invested in.
I also recently saw William Eubanks' film, Underwater, which is essentially Alien-meets-The Abyss. To put it nicely, it borrows liberally from its inspirations. But anyway, I enjoyed it for what it was.
I felt the same way about The Gentlemen. Which is about as good as an Arby's Bacon Beef 'N Cheddar Sandwich can be, I guess.