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The gentlemen are also the players in this typically class-conscious film by writer-director Guy Ritchie, in which he returns to his signature style: the hyperactive geezer-gangstery ensemble caper or Chas’n’Dave fantasy crime procedural, the genre that made his name in the 1990s. It’s almost a time capsule for that era. Watching these poshos and villains and right lairy bastards, you could almost imagine that Tony Blair was once again hobnobbing with Noel Gallagher in No 10. This drama even features a baddie more associated with an era slightly older than that: a tabloid newspaper editor, played by Eddie Marsan, who is in charge of a horrible rag called the Daily Print. (The daily what?)
I enjoyed Ritchie’s tongue-in-cheek movie about King Arthur two years ago, and this wacky outing is pretty entertaining too, certainly better than his atrocious RocknRolla in 2008 or his tepid reboot of The Man from UNCLE in 2015 – although Ritchie ostentatiously includes a poster for that last film in one shot here, as if insisting on its neglected auteur meisterwerk status. The Gentlemen barrels cheerfully along like a 113-minute Madness video, and one reason it’s more watchable is that Ritchie doesn’t indulge his terrible habit of speeded-up montage scenes. Another reason is that it has Hugh Grant playing against type as an outrageously déclassé hacker-snoop turned screenwriter who reckons he has the goods on a drug baron, Mickey Pearson (played by Matthew McConaughey), and attempts to blackmail him into stumping up the cash to produce his film based on this mobster’s dirty dealings.
Grant’s Fletcher, a dodgy long-lens journo creep (somehow Grant is always amusingly venal whenever he wears aviator shades, as he does here), turns up at the sumptuous pad occupied by Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), the tough factotum working for Mickey. Fletcher is brandishing his script and claiming to know everything that’s been going on, starting with Mickey’s long-standing arrangement with a dozen or so lordly proprietors of landed estates to establish gigantic underground weed farms beneath their rolling acres.
But Mickey and his lady wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) – to whom he is devoted – are thinking of getting out of the business, which has brought a number of rivals sniffing around to buy up the going concern, while intent on driving the sale price down with their menacing attitudes. One is fellow American Matthew Berger, played by Jeremy Strong, but this placeholder role doesn’t allow the actor to show us anything like the brilliance he had as Kendall Roy in the HBO TV series Succession. Another potential buyer is the pushy youngster Dry Eye, played by Henry Golding. The complicated and rackety game of move and countermove is further complicated by the involvement of a criminally inclined boxing coach called Coach, entertainingly played by Colin Farrell – another typically Ritchiesque character.
As so often in the past, the plot unfolds in the form of a series of extended wild-eyed anecdotes, the sort of stories that used to get told excitably in the 1990s in London’s Groucho club at three in the morning, with guys vanishing off to the toilets in pairs and returning in animated high spirits, keen to produce another cockney crime film. There are some nice lines: on being told that guns are illegal in the UK, one character shrugs: “In France, it’s illegal to call a pig Napoleon, but try and stop me.” And Raymond is unimpressed by a would-be thief’s intention to “lift” something: “You couldn’t ‘lift’ a wheel of cheese.” Ritchie has made an entertaining return to his mockney roots.
Source: The Guardian
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