Guy Ritchie's return to British gangsters and hooligans lacks the sizzle of previous efforts; but succeeds with standout performances. The Gentlemen isn't in the league of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, or the underrated RocknRolla. An incredibly convoluted plot, coupled with strained execution, leads to a middling narrative. The saving grace is a motley crew of memorable characters. The all-star cast chews up the screen with savage gusto. Ritchie gives his ensemble devilish latitude. They lead to laugh out loud moments that make up for the film's meandering.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Mickey Pearson, a poor American who went to university in England and became its "bush" king. No one has any clue how he grows, moves, and sells literally tons of high grade cannabis. Mickey's skill, ferocity, trusted lieutenant Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), and razor sharp wife (Michelle Dockery) has made him the "lion" of a very dangerous jungle.
Mickey decides to call it a career and ride off into the wealthy sunset. He has an American buyer (Jeremy Strong) lined up to buy his business for a stupefying sum. Word of Mickey's plans has his enemies ready to pounce. A spurned tabloid editor (Eddie Marsan) and power hungry Asian crime boss (Henry Golding) sense weakness. They're out for blood, but a sleazy reporter (Hugh Grant) smells an opportunity for blackmail money. Caught in the middle of the fray is a youth fighting coach (Colin Farrell) just trying to keep his students out of trouble.
The Gentlemen has a complex plot with near constant narration. Hugh Grant's character, Fletcher, unveils the different threads while talking through his blackmail price scheme with Raymond. What begins as somewhat intriguing devolves into a crutch for poor storytelling. Guy Ritchie's script cannot put the pieces together in a clever way. He depends on Fletcher to spell out the details to the audience. Fletcher is hilariously slimey, but his drip, drip reveals become tiresome. Ritchie needed a better tool for exposition, instead of a character explaining every angle.
Hugh Grant hasn't been this funny in ages. His homosexual banter with Charlie Hunnam's Raymond provides the majority of comic relief. Colin Farrell is also a scene stealer as Coach. His antics helping the students are funny and heartwarming. He understands where a life of larceny can lead. The venerated British actors add real personality and needed humor.
The Gentlemen's lead characters are surprisingly blasé. Matthew McConaughey has a few moments of rage, but is otherwise unremarkable. Michelle Dockery, the only female role in the sea of machismo, is relegated to the standard damsel in distress. Ritchie makes the most of his supporting cast. He needed to pay the same attention to his stars. McConaughey and Dockery could have been a spectacular gangster couple. They're not bad in these roles, but you're left wanting more.
The Gentlemen is chock full of that stylized filmmaking Guy Ritchie is known for. There's no shortage of pounding music, quick edits, and elaborate chases. A few scenes temper the frenzy to concentrate on the characters banter; which is of course loaded with expletives. The Gentlemen leaves a lot to be desired, especially when compared to earlier Ritchie films. But earns a recommendation with a slew of entertaining characters. The mocking of upper class British society is also a plus. Ritchie takes a jab at inheritance culture across the pond. The Gentlemen is a Miramax production with distribution by STX Films.