In the new COVID-19 era, movie theatres are closed, which means that production studios need to consider streaming platforms and immediate sales on iTunes to make their movies available to the public. Although we really miss the ambiance and the thrills of the big screen, this gives us the chance to have access to all the recent hits from the comfort of your couch. This is notably the case for British Director Guy Ritchie (the genius behind Snatch and Sherlock Holmes), who saw his latest flick The Gentlemen available sooner on Video on Demand after a short run in theatres. Produced by Miramax Studios, the giants of the 90s, I enjoyed The Gentlemen very much and now rests at the top of my favourite movies for 2020. Amazing casting choices, a poetic script like we rarely see, typical British humour and LOADS of swears, this is a must-see for all fans of the “gangster” genre.
Strangely enough, this movie was released at the very end of January, which is a doomed window for movies. Most of the studios release their stinkers at the beginning of the year since less people visit cinemas. For those of you who know and admire Ritchie’s work, this is…by far…his best movie since the first Sherlock Holmes and probably the best January movie I have seen for a long time. He is back in the genre for which he was known for after the now cult classics that are Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000).
A talented expat and graduate student of Oxford who goes by the name of Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey, so stylish and cool), using his unique mind and unprecedented audacity, came up with an illegal enrichment scheme for marijuana production in the UK using the estate of an impoverished English aristocracy. However, when he decides to sell his business to an influential American business mogul (Jeremy Strong), the word gets out rapidly among different crime groups in London, who are all dying to get a piece of his business. An exchange of courtesies is planned, which certainly will not do without gunfights, accidents and confrontations. The movie is told from the point of view of one character, so we’re not 100% certain of who or what to believe though.
Many outstanding gentlemen join Matthew in the movie, including Michael’s cool and controlled assistant Raymond (Charlie Hunnam-what a great character!), his sexy wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery, less polite than usual after Downton Abbey), a boxing coach supervising undisciplined fighters (Colin Farrell, the comic relief of the movie) and a investigative journalist with nothing to lose (Hugh Grant, with a funny accent).
Above all else, this movie appealed to me in the highest ways for its style and overall sophisticated approach. Even if the crime world of London is tough, violent and crass, pretty much all the characters are extremely well-dressed, well-mannered and beautiful, making all of it so enjoyable to the eye. All the gentlemen among you readers will surely fantasize, like me, on Matthew McConaughey’s suits in this movie. Everything, especially the look and style of the characters, is so well-crafted. I’m a suit and tie guy…what can I say!
Guy Ritchie made his reputation with fast-paced movies, in which the script never slows down and forces you to pay attention. This was famously the case in Snatch where all the characters were mumbling their complicated lines and where Brad Pitt had a gypsy accent so bad we couldn’t understand anything. Let me reassure you, this is not it. However, still considering that everything is said in regional UK English, here’s another reason to pay close attention. Overall, in terms of writing, it doesn’t disappoint at all and works perfectly as a “black comedy” merging the perfect amount of humour, irony and violence to make it as interesting as a Quentin Tarantino movie. Some scenes may very well become iconic, like Colin Farrell’s hilarious introduction of a Chinese hostage who is named “Phuck” with a “PH” and the excellent confrontation between Raymond and suburban kids on heroin.
On a more political level, in times where the legalization of marijuana is in high demand in many American states and countries around the world, this movie feels very actual and contemporary. Briefly exploring the effects of Brexit on the illegal drugs industry, The Gentlemen paints an interesting picture of the mergers, acquisitions and sales’ race among crime lords before legalization decreases the prices and profits of producers.
After the misfires that were The Men from UNCLE (2015) and Aladdin (2019), we are so happy to rediscover director Guy Ritchie in prime condition in the authentic British movie genre that he established. Such movies possess all the right elements to become fan favourites and references for one-liners.
Making a sequel isn’t really in the director’s or the genre’s DNA, but I would honestly consider it here. All the characters are really enjoyable and there’s never a dull moment in their company. Give us the chance to explore their backstory a little more.
MY GRADE : 8.5/10