Once upon a time, there was a British director named Guy Ritchie who made killer gangster movies; killer because people died in his films yet the good guys came out victorious. That director went in another direction and came up with two Sherlock Holmes flicks, one Man from UNCLE film and the live-action version of Aladdin, besides a box office dud in King Arthur. The Gentleman is his return to the genre that made him the most inspiring director around; just like a duck takes to water, Guy Ritchie takes to gangster flicks. The Gentlemen proves that despite attempting a comedic crime caper after a dozen years, Guy Ritchie writes and directs as if he never left!
A private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is hired by a prying tabloid editor Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) to dig up dirt on powerful drug lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) who snubbed him at a party. After completing his investigations, Fletcher approaches Mickey’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) to strike a deal so that he doesn’t give the story to Big Dave. Before he could lock the deal, everything goes haywire as dangerous business rivals enter the scene, a boxing coach (Colin Farrell) offers his services to Raymond in exchange for what his students did and a Russian gangster who wants to avenge his son’s death.
The film heralds the return of writer-director Guy Ritchie who grabs the audience’s attention from the very first scene. Just like in his successful gang-bang flicks Snatch, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, he creates characters who seem like everyday men but are dirty from the inside. He dresses up these gentlemen in crisp suits (in most of the cases) but what they do afterward is what keeps the audience’s heart pounding. Not only does the audience connect with them, but they also get angry when something bad happens to them. Matthew McConaughey leads the cast as the ‘King of the Jungle’ and trusts his right-hand man Raymond played by Charlie Hunnam. They don’t resolve to violence until they are provoked, or if their loved ones such as Mickey’s wife (Michelle Dockery) is involved.
Colin Farrell as the honest boxing coach is outstanding, teaming up well with Hunnam who enters Guy Ritchie’s gang-bang flicks for the first time. As a gangster who keeps his cool, Charlie Hunnam does a brilliant job as he does most of the action in the film, and is a calm customer when in the comfort of his home. The biggest surprise here is Hugh Grant who plays a blackmailing PI who believes he is always one step ahead when in fact he is nowhere. It is his character who narrates most of the incidents in the typical Guy Ritchie style, stopping for a bathroom break and dinner in between narrations. His chemistry with fellow British actor Hunnam keeps the audience intrigued as to how their relationship would end – by Raymond’s bullet or somebody else’s.
The film follows Guy Ritchie’s usual format of back (cut to flashbacks) and forth (cut to present) and only those who have seen his earlier gangster films like Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels would be able to relate. The confusion that Hugh Grant’s narration is only for the first half as it all becomes as clear as water once the film enters the latter half. Yes, there is a lot of swearing in the movie but you don’t go into a theatre to watch a gangster flick, hoping not to listen to cuss words. The violence is too graphic and not suitable for kids but then which kid would prefer a Guy Ritchie flick over Bad Boys For Life in the cinema!
The Verdict 4/5
The Gentlemen is not your average gangster flick; the name of Guy Ritchie is associated with it and with that name, comes great responsibility. That’s why he chose the best actors for the characters he created, even though most of them haven’t worked in a gangster flick before. In fact, people like Matthew McConaughey usually played characters on the right side of the law, yet here he himself is the law. The crisp editing is the highlight of the movie whereas the goofy sidekicks and the over-smart street dudes make you laugh out loud, uncontrollably. The comedic action is not because of the dialogues but because of the fascinating characters created by the writer and portrayed by the ensemble cast. The film might not convert many non-fans into Guy Ritchie fans but it is a treat for those who have grown up on his content, and execution. It is a not-to-be-missed extravaganza that will make you wonder how a simple story can be told if the director knows the basics of the game.