The Gentlemen is typically the kind of film I avoid. Men shouting, swearing, and shooting - not for me. Guy Ritchie has never been big on my list, although I’ve seen the two Sherlock Holmes films and his recent Aladdin remake; he’s not for me. So the fact that I sat through most of The Gentlemen while laughing, gasping, and thoroughly enjoying myself? Pretty shocking, but it is that fun.
Ritchie handles the film well. Though I personally disliked the narrative structure, he has a lot of fun with it. He juxtaposes various storylines and characters neatly, framing each shot and each open door well. It’s clear he feels at home in this world, and the environments equally feel real, just as the characters do.
The whole film is told through the lens of snivelling journalist Fletcher, played by Hugh Grant, who is trying to sell the story or get a nice pay out from Charlie Hunnam’s Raymond to make it all go away. I found this off putting, as it removed me from the story, and I felt the story was being told to me, not shown. As the film develops, the gaps between these interruptions do widen, allowing you to settle in to the story and get engaged. I understand why Ritchie wanted to use this narrative device, but I personally felt it created too big of a distance between story and audience.
We follow Matthew McCounghey as Mickey Pearson. He’s a cannabis kingpin, but starting to think about retiring. The weed trade in England is likely to be legal in the next 10 years, and his hands are too dirty to go straight, so he’s looking to sell the business to the right person, for the right price. He’s found this person, but when Henry Golding’s Dry Eye gets involved and starts to mess up Mickey and his trusty aide Raymond’s big plan, things get really messy.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
There’s a LOT of characters in the film. Too many to focus on for a review, and I did struggle in the first act to know who I was meant to care about and why. Again, once the audience can get over the storytelling device you can start to really engage with the full ensemble. My shout out has to go to Colin Farrell’s Coach who is effortlessly cool, calm, and collected as well as caring. His love for his ‘boys’ is clear to show, and whilst he’s not the most important player in the film, he quickly becomes the most dependable. The whole cast is having a great time with their performance, but no one more than Grant. He’s overacting, but it’s brilliant, so it’s ok.
A quick word to the wise on dialogue. If you don’t like cursing... This is not the film for you. The dialogue is smart, snappy, and fun, but rude as hell. I’ve not heard the c-bomb dropped this much since the last time I got stuck in traffic.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The introduction midway through the film of a group of fight-porn YouTube stars and their rap music works brilliantly, and Ritchie chooses a wide range of tracks to accompany each of his different characters. It’s not quite on the Edgar Wright scale of musical excellence, but he certainly knows how to set a tone.
The film is surprisingly beautiful for a gangster film. Set in London, large sections take place in beautiful manor homes or stately pubs, and it only feels like a real setting, but a majestic and comfortable one as well. Plenty of blood for those violence fans out there too.
I really didn’t think I would like The Gentlemen, and the first act really had me on the fence. But once Farrell’s Coach turned up and the wheels really started turning, I was hooked. Each character is likeable and hate-able at the same time, and you never know which side you’ll see. But seeing Charlie Hunnam threaten a bunch of south east London thugs with a machine gun? Timeless.