Guy Ritchie made his name with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and one of my personal favourite films: Snatch. With the Gentlemen, he has returned to his British gangster film roots and brought to it a cast packed with big names and huge talent. His writing and his dialogue are what made the films hits, and from the trailers it just looked like him flexing his writing and directorial muscles after years working in different genres.
In recent years he’s made Aladdin and Man from Uncle, two films I really enjoyed but didn’t quite have that Guy Ritchie style I love. I missed catching King Arthur, but that film just didn’t seem like it suited the director’s flair. The Gentlemen, whilst initially giving me a Kingsman vibe, is Ritchie going back to what he does better than anyone. It’s fast paced, anarchic, over the top fun, and that’s a word that’s relatively dull to use to describe a film but honestly, it’s how it is best described.
The last few films I have watched have been Bombshell and Little Women, two dramas about real issues and bringing up emotions. The Gentlemen never tries to kid you into thinking it’s going to be that. It knows what it wants to do, and it goes about achieving it as best it can. Getting the talents of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell and the surprise star of the show Hugh Grant elevates the expectations a little for me. I love Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam seems promising in everything I’ve seen of him, and McConaughey is one of the best in the business. All three sell the fast-paced dialogue and excessive nature of everything well. Even little things like how many different suits McConaughey’s character gets through made me smile, as every new scene has him sporting a new pattern and pulling it off.
Hugh Grant is unrecognisable from the heartthrob audiences know from his various romantic comedies over the years, and he looks like he had an unbelievable amount of fun playing such a quirky oddball. He is the one delivering the exposition, and normally it would be excessive, but the character is so incredibly entertaining throughout that you just eat it all up.
To be honest, the flaws in the movie are all things that you just don’t come into a Guy Ritchie gangster film to see. If you want an introspective drama or a tragic story, there are other films that do that, this is unashamed to be here proudly displaying what it is. You know from early in the film what you’re in for, and it doesn’t change or surprise you. It subverts expectations by what the characters say and do, but mainly because there is nobody who writes dialogue quite like this.
There’s countless cunts and fucks thrown around with happy abandon for the offence people take to that language. There is no time for you to dwell on it, because before you know it, you’re into the next scene and something else bonkers is happening.
There is something in most of Guy Ritchie’s films that have reminded me of Tarantino, and this is another one where I can see shades of it. The difference, at least for now, is that Tarantino somehow takes a similar strain of over the top craziness and funnels it into a more investing story, something which The Gentlemen never threatens to do.
There is a narrative at play, but it felt like it’s just a vessel to get us to the next moment. I laughed consistently throughout, I was hooked by the performances, but I never cared. It never made me feel something for the characters, and that’s what holds this style of film back now.
If you enjoy Snatch or Lock Stock, this will be a fantastic ride for you. It’s got all the hallmarks of those films and a few references here and there, but if you want something to make you think or challenge you emotionally, this isn’t the film for it. This film is here to give you a good time, and in Oscar season it came along at just the right time for me.
Good: Dialogue, Performances, plenty of laughs and dripping with style.
Bad: Not going to make you feel much, no real connection to any characters.
7/10 – Guy Ritchie having some fun.