Written by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Grant
Power keeps people in positions they hate because nothing else can fully satisfy their hunger for control. It explains why those with the largest net worth in the world continue to work and not just go away to their own private island and live without stress. This search for power pushes people to act at their worst, which occurs with a blend of sleek and ruggish humor in The Gentlemen.
After building a large marijuana empire, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is ready to call it quits and begins the process of selling everything to the eccentric billionaire, Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong). What begins as a smooth transition gets rocky when the slimy private investigator, Fletcher (Hugh Grant) catches wind of this and begins a game of blackmail to blow it all up.
The entire framing device of The Gentlemen creates for an exhilarating ride. It sets the players but most of it occurs between a conversation held by Fletcher and Mickey Pearsons’s number 2, Raymond Smith (Charlie Hunnam). It begins with Raymond blowing off Fletcher as someone not made for the threats being spouted, but then things begin to heat up. Fletcher tells the story of the rise of Pearson and displays more knowledge than Raymond assumed he would know. The narrative then cuts between Fletcher’s conversation with Raymond and the story unfolding in a matter similar to The Princess Bride.
Their conversation adds all of the humor within the story because Fletcher begins to get comfortable in Raymond’s home. From using the bathroom and even asking if they could have a steak cooked while the rest of the story continues. The increased comfortability Fletcher gains in this home depicts the power dynamics slowly shifting between them. The once abrasive Raymond sees the leverage building on the side of Fletcher and begins to believe the threat he can pose.
Everything happening between Fletcher and Raymond became so captivating because of the exuberant performance by Hugh Grant. He’s becoming an actor whose recent work supersedes everything he did at the height of his powers. His over the top performances have given us a new side of his zaniness and as Fletcher, he walks the balance of being threatening and also simply being a goofball. I equally admire his work in Paddington 2, where he goes off-the-wall as well. His eccentric performance brings the best out of Charlie Hunnam. While he’s made the biggest mark in Sons of Anarchy, his film career has struggled but he finally got some material that allowed him to shine. With the character of Raymond, he utilizes his usual tough demeanor but in a way, it becomes comical when seated opposite of Fletcher. A great balance between the two.
I’ve just now realized I’ve spent a good portion of the review writing about Fletcher and Raymond because they’re the best part of The Gentlemen. The story being told by Fletcher comes forward in a particularly predictable manner. It displays Mickey Pearson and the way he operates his plants and creates incredible profits with it. When sabotage begins and his farms are found for the first time, the film makes it seem like it’s some large mystery. I immediately knew who would be responsible and no real surprises came with it. Within the story, the film brings in many different players to the game, which includes a young and braggadocious man trying to take over the game in Dry Eye (Henry Golding). The young actor perhaps overdid this role and went far too hard with it because it just does not work. He’s displayed his ability to portray smooth and suave characters in the past and I suppose he tried to do something incredibly different and the result did not come out as planned. Colin Farrell, however, shines once again in his portrayal of Coach. I would love a spin-off of his story and how he tries to guide young men towards good lives but can fight anyone at any moment.
Admittedly, my experience with Guy Ritchie films is limited but he has some incredible highs and some disheartening lows. My favorite film of his is obviously The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which deserves all the love in the world. However, the British director would then turn around and make the absolute shell of a film like Aladdin. While I want to experience more of his films, based on which of his films turn out well, when he leans towards these rough and tough British stories, his sensibilities shine. The Gentlemen blends the grimy side along with the well-dressed and polished side of the drug game in England. He puts it all together in an entertaining way and hopefully he sees the value in continually telling stories like this one.
The Gentlemen comes with its faults, which includes some fairly outdated and offensive material, but it also brings a wonderful cast having fun in these roles. The film constantly weaves a web destined to snap and while the conclusion does not stick to the landing, the ride to the end entertains. One to enjoy, especially if one is on-board with the new trajectory of Hugh Grant’s career.