Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen signifies a return to the crime-laden and humourous style that originally established his career. Save for Matthew McConaughey’s criminal protagonist ‘Mickey’, who hails from the US, this film is definitively British in every way. The classic UK-style of dry humour plays a big role in this, and the way the script is written and delivered maximises the potential for laughs.
Mickey’s game is marijuana – truly massive quantities of it. This draws attention and interested parties soon force Mickey to negotiate in the only way he knows how. As Ritchie returns to what he knows best, it is quickly apparent that he is using his many years of experience to create a polished and mature film.
Eccentric, exaggerated characters litter the story on both sides, ranging from high ranking British officials to Asian gangs to other parties who have taken an interest in Mickey’s enterprise. The man taking charge of the Asian contingent is hilariously known as ‘Dry-Eye’ (Henry Golding), an obvious reference to what one’s eyes feel like if smoking weed. Another is known as ‘Phuc’ (James Wong), which prompts amusing discussions of how it is spelt versus how it is pronounced.
The rapid, witty script is what powers the film for the most part: quintessentially British with an incredible number of one-liners that never feel forced, principally because they are rooted in British slang and culture. Ritchie has created the tightest screenplay and script of his career, and as an artist, he quite rightly ignores current societal trends (or can see them for what they are). His gleeful use of the almighty ‘c-word’ is consistent throughout, again a big part of British slang. This is a film that doesn’t understand nor care about ‘political correctness’.
An unexpected but pleasant surprise is Hugh Grant, complete with a Cockney accent. He excels in the against-type role of a dodgy private detective who seems to have all the answers, and the confidence to back it up. He is easily the centre of all the scenes he is in, which is a significant amount. Grant soars in the role, flying far higher than McConaughey in fact. McConaughey hasn’t been the centre of a great film for a few years now and, despite being the focal point of the story, he is outshined by his co-stars here. He frequently looks as if he has gotten high on his character’s own supply and has autopilot engaged.
The future surely holds more exciting roles for Grant, who undoubtedly deserves it – he is easily the best, most magnetic and memorable part of the entire film. As for Ritchie, he has made a very loud splash after a series of underwhelming films. Using experience and versatility to tell his story in a cleverly presented fashion, The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie’s best film in years.