Director: Guy Ritchie
He’s back! The king of cockney comedy is back, and none too soon. Any longer, any more Ridiculous Ritchie movies, and we’d have given up all hope of any rebirth, but we can now breathe a collective sigh of relief, cause the gangsta governa is back. Snatch was released in 2001, and while critics didn’t love it, audiences did, and it’s become a well-deserved cult standard (and one of my personal favorites). Fast forward almost twenty years and Guy Ritchie has returned to his roots with another crafty caper in The Gentlemen, one the critics will despise and audiences will praise. That’s the dude’s MO, that’s what he does so well, he riles up the crowds and pisses off the pretentious; more power to him, I say. And although this film won’t rival his most famous, it will grow on you like an annoying parasite that you can’t quite shake off and might even learn to adore; if that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.
An American called Mickey has become London’s premier pot power, creating an empire hidden right under our noses and providing Brits with the w-w-w-weed they n-n-n-need. But he’s looking to duck out of the game; he’s not getting any younger, he wants to retire to some beach with his gorgeous wife Roz, he’s got blood on his hands from years in the business, and he just wants it all to fade away. So he’ll sell the whole franchise for hundreds of millions of pounds to another crook; easy peasey, lemon squeezey, right? Wrong, because once the other sharks smell blood in the water they attack, biting each other as well, gnawing even themselves; it’s a mess, that’s for sure. Ray is Mickey’s man, but he’s being blackmailed by Fletcher, who’s too nosy for his own good, while Dry Eye attempts a coup, and the Coach wades in over his head to lend a helping hand. Blood, sweat, and tears, that’s what you can expect from this crime-gone-wrong kerfuffle, with a surprise around every corner and a nod to kooky criminals everywhere.
After Lock Stock and Snatch, Ritchie ran into some trouble, namely all the movies he directed since: a bunch of Madonna crap, Revolver, RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes twice, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Aladdin. And while they weren’t technically all disasters, they weren’t exactly successes either, some of them were downright awful, and it seemed like Ritchie had lost his edge. But I am happy to report that the sharp cuts are back, as, unfortunately, are the racist caricatures, the foul language, the uncomfortable homophobia, I’m not saying it’s all wonderful, but some of that you can take with a grain of salt and I guess some you’re welcome to hate him for. Whatever your position, this is a style, this is, at its roots, comedy that makes fun of itself and its creators more than anyone, and count me on board for a resurgence of that classic, British, tea-cozy-over-the-head insanity.
The Gentlemen is a film that grows on you, the more you get used to the slaps to your face, the shit you’re stepping in, the bad smell you think might be coming from, well, all the main characters. It’s a grungy, dirty, bloody business, and it takes some time to come to terms with the basic premise, and then to start enjoying it. By the end, I was hooked, it was like I had understood their slang all along, and I was ready to watch more. I was actually disappointed when it ended, which I took as a good sign, and I hope this also means that Ritchie is back in the game for real. The actors were so fun: Grant’s comedy, Hunnam’s steady hand, McConaughey’s swagger, Dockery’s killer accent, Farrell’s wicked, show-stealing talent. He’s the real highlight, he’s amazing, and I’d love to see a film just about his character, if Ritchie could pull that off. Not quite as all-around strong and mostly-perfected as Snatch, this movie is still a solid offering, especially out of the blue, early in the year, when nothing else is impressing. I can’t say I’ll remember it as a leading favorite ten months from now, and there are some racial concerns that those of us who are privileged enough not to be bothered by should also take the time to notice, but if pure entertainment is what you’re looking for you’ll find it on the wet cobblestones of London’s streets, amid the rather sinister denizens of one man’s killer-cool imagination.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆