You will need a world of patience to fully appreciate “The Gentlemen,” the last offering from director Guy Ritchie (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”). His passion for being playful in the way that he makes movies can get in the way of the story he’s trying to tell.
Ritchie almost takes his unique style too far but at the last moment shines a light on the multiple plots to give them the kind of clarity needed to full appreciate the work. The end result is a movie you must commit to for a full viewing to get the full fun impact.
Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is an American who moved to London to study and ended up staying to create a highly profitable marijuana empire. The drug business tends not to have a retirement plan so Pearson has reached the age where he lets it be known that he’s looking to cash out of the business forever.
This sets in motion a series of criminal activities all designed to determine who will be the next weed king. Helping Pearson deal with the negotiations is his trusted assistant Ray (Charlie Hunnam).
This is where Ritchie starts his fun with film.
Most of what transpires is told through a narration by Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a private detective who has turned all of his surveillance into a movie script. He is certain there are enough details in the work to make it worth millions.
This narrating of a script opens up all kinds of film-making approaches for Ritchie. One extremely violent scene is rewound to show a very different way the incident happened. Throughout the film, Ritchie uses what looks like old film footage, a music video and a script reading to reveal facts.
The director becomes so in love with this style that there are points in the story along the way that his film almost succumbs to a line Pearson delivers about how doubt can lead to a downfall.
The glue for the film for the first 90% are some strong acting performances. McConaughey is one of the politest drug dealers on the planet who has a code of ethic where family comes before money. His main family is his wife Rosalind played with fire and boldness by Michelle Dockery. Those who know her work from “Downton Abbey” will get to see a completely different side of her.
It’s also nice to see Henry Golding show his dramatic side after starring in the light romantic comedies of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Last Christmas.” He is as ruthless in “The Gentlemen” as he was charming in the two sweet love stories.
Top honors goes to Grant who sheds his lovable lug side in favor of playing one of the creepiest characters in his career. He embraces the challenge with great glee that makes every scene with him shine.
There is a familiarity to the story as “The Gentlemen” has elements of movies like “Get Shorty” and the TV series “Barry.” That’s not a bad thing as Ritchie can take themes used by others and give them a wild and crazy look.
Its strong acting and a script that finally comes together that makes the film worth your time and money. Don’t give up on “The Gentlemen” too early as it eventually gets to the great gangster points.
The film has earned its R rating for scenes of violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content. This film is for a mature audience only.
Grade: 3 stars