In the late 1990s, writer and director Guy Ritchie swaggered onto the scene with his sweary yet stylised brand of black comedy. He married the world’s biggest popstar and managed to carry the Britpop movement forward into movies. Since the turn of the century, his work has been somewhat hit-or-miss but his latest feature The Gentlemen sees him go back to the genre that made him famous.
The plot follows American drug lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) as he looks to step away from the business in the age of gentrification. With his right-hand-man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) handling the dirty work, and sleazy tabloid reporter Fletcher (Hugh Grant) sniffing around for a scandal, the plans to sell the empire to an Oklahoma billionaire soon go awry.
With fast cuts, an expletive-laden script, and a shady narrative of guns, thugs and drugs, this is very much a return to geezer gangstery for Ritchie. However, if it wasn’t for a lazy Brexit reference, you could be mistaken for thinking this was set twenty years ago due to some ill-judged slurs in the dialogue and its dated representation of the very few female figures. Even in his halcyon days, his approach was never described as being particularly progressive, but he seems to have lost his relevance. Because of this, the story is reduced to working only as a sensationalised throwback and doesn’t have a lot to say about modern Britain.
The protagonist Mickey is drawn as the once fish-out-of-water expat who has worked his London location to his advantage over the years. As his glamourous trophy wife Rosalind, Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery goes full on East End to give an enjoyable take on a tired trope. Unfortunately, despite his obvious screen presence, McConaughey looks a little out of place in his portrayal and the material is managed with more aplomb by the supporting players. Hunnam, Grant, and a scene stealing Colin Farrell have barrels of fun with their typically Ritchie-esque personalities, and their fuelled exchanges provide the film’s best moments.
The Gentlemen might lack the cutting edge and the social significance of Guy Ritchie’s previous pieces, but this crafty crime caper is proof that the master of mockney is still more than capable of spinning an entertaining yarn.