Sounding vaguely like English and very much like Guy Ritchie, the Director’s latest comes very fresh off his first foray into Agrabah.
Back in the city he knows best, London’s marijuana magnates here jockey for influence amidst carnage, colloquialisms, upstarts and Matthew McConaughey’s hitherto best attempt at another accent.
His Mickey Pearson, only a Brit since his post wonder years, would chew all the scenery but for Charlie Hunnam’s Ray, arguably this film’s main character, who would take the limelight if it wasn’t for Hugh Grant’s Fletcher (his best performance save Paddington 2’s Phoenix Buchanan) who in turn would have stolen all the attention had Colin Farrell not been cast.
Farrell, one of the most interesting actors of the era and the best thing about every film he’s been in for the past several years, is unendingly hilarious as ‘Coach;’ a well-meaning, wide-eyed trainer who gets tied up in the machinations of these gangsters thanks to his wards’ actions.
Henry Golding is too very good in his finest performance to date (besting his turn in A Simple Favour), as is Michelle Dockery as Rosalind Pearson; the only female character with more than a few lines. The Gentlemen does however pass the Bechdel Test, with as it happens the only, brief conversation between two female characters herein loudly highlighting the name of each participant.
To this point, there’s nothing wrong with having predominantly or even entirely characters of one gender within a story depending on the context and what it imparts, yet the absence of female figures all too generally highlights a detraction within storytelling forgoing characterisations with which we could otherwise be treated. Ritchie has here, unlike within many of his most well-known efforts, crafted one interesting female character; if only for the purposes of further engaging, realistic and tonally distinct storytelling from his previous projects he could just as well have included more.
Dockery does however herald the best scene in the film involving a very low-impact gun; close seconds involve a music video, a train, an egregious episode inclusive of a pig and Ray ‘negotiating’ with a teen to hand over his phone.
Hunnam, exceptional in every role he chooses, here uses his physicality to greatly restrained effect, intimidating counterparts with a threatening air much more visually powerful than most punches he could otherwise throw. This latter sequence too does well to integrate the modern advent of mobile technology into the narrative to hilarious effect; of course kids are going to film whatever exceptional thing they come across and The Gentlemen, unlike many a modern picture, has with this reckoned.
With some shrewd commentary on the complicity and hypocrisy of English aristocracy as regards the drug trade, this time around Ritchie’s trademark style over substance generally works well granted there are simply so many enjoyable moments. The Henry Sugar-esque story within a story with a story style of narrative encapsulated by Grant’s Fletcher, together with the unreliable narration, are too welcome innovations.
Still letting itself down in some of the plot’s convenient happenstances and nonsensicality, in respects given characters’ rapid abilities to recover from injuries and Ray’s penchant to near supernaturally be across everything and anywhere at any one time, The Gentlemen is nonetheless an enjoyable ride it doesn’t pay to think too much about.
The Gentlemen is in cinemas now