'The Gentlemen' Review: Guy Ritchie at his finest with a hilarious, elaborately crafted, criminal masterpiece
Mild spoilers for 'The Gentlemen'
It's been a long time since Guy Ritchie's last crime film 2008's 'RocknRolla.' As a director, he's had a few hits and misses since then, but 'The Gentlemen' is undoubtedly a return to form - a Guy Ritchie film at its finest. It's a fantastic lesson in cinematic storytelling, with as many moving parts as a good heist movie but with less focus on a singular goal. This works in its favor as its cast of colorful characters each get their own shining moments as the movie's many elements fall into place like a deeply satisfying puzzle.
As a private investigator, Fletcher(Hugh Grant) is leveraging marijuana magnate Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) for 20 million pounds and most of the movie is Fletcher slowly unraveling all he knows. It's the story of Pearson, who appears to have been shot in the film's opening moments, and his attempt to get out of the legal marijuana business and sell his vast empire for a price high enough to retire wealthy on. Naturally, things start going wrong almost immediately.
There's a lot of characters and plot points and the movie's quick pace doesn't slow down for anyone. Things progress at a rather fast clip, with trademark accidents, coincidences and mess-ups getting in the way of the well-ordered plans of people whose survival depends on things being in order. The film's fast pace demands you pay close attention and then rewards you for it with performances that hit every mark they're meant to. The quick-paced plot is interspersed with scenes that give every character of this large cast a chance to stand out and make a memorable impression on the audience and every bit works.
The comedy, like its action, it quick, brutal and efficient. Hyperstylized shots with rock music in the background make every moment feel powerful - even the more mundane, simple moments of badass gangsters just being people are unforgettable for their contrasts. The characters on screen fumble and mess up despite being well established as highly competent people and it would all feel chaotic if the story wasn't told with such tight precision.
It's hard to single out a single performer, though Hugh Grant's Fletcher does stand out for how shockingly different angle Grant gives the character. It may be Hugh's sad eyes onscreen, but it's Fletcher's sleazy eyes looking out of them, always looking for a way to take advantage of a situation and rub salt into the wounds. Matthew McConaughey is technically the lead and the person around whom the story all revolves. He brings a steely, silent power to the movie, a big cat resting in powerful, luxuriant comfort, ready to strike at any moment. When those moments come, it's a shock and the violent rage of Matthew Pearson is palpable. What passes for stakes in this movie are handled interestingly, aside from perhaps Coach (Colin Farrell) and his boys, there's really no one protagonist offered to really root for. Things are going badly for a lot of violent criminals and what's entertaining is the guessing game of just who is going to come out on top.
'The Gentlemen' is a fast-paced roller coaster of a film, with filled with twists both chaotic and clever and packed with compelling performances from a stellar ensemble cast who are all desperately trying to take control. But, like a roller coaster, though it seems like any moment things might go off the rails, every twist and turn is under careful control. The many elements of the story all perfectly orchestrated for one unforgettable experience. 'The Gentlemen' is a must-watch - crime has rarely been so fun.
'The Gentlemen' is now available to stream on VOD.