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Guy Ritchie’s latest gangster comedy presents itself as a harmless romp, but behind its wink-wink-nudge-nudge humour is a bitter and dated worldview. “There’s fuckery afoot,” clips “cockney Cleopatra” Rosalind (Michelle Dockery). Her analysis is astute.
Self-made Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is an American interloper and marijuana dealer who wants out of the game. Now middle-aged and comfortably middle class, he hopes to liquidate his weed-farm empire; interested buyers include Jewish-American billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong, AKA Succession’s Kendall Roy) and Chinese mobster “Dry Eye” (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding).
We learn of Mickey’s plans and their inevitable unravelling through a screenplay written by sleazy private investigator and aspiring screenwriter Fletcher (Hugh Grant). This is relayed in laborious fashion to Mickey’s right-hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam, endlessly watchable in owlish glasses). The screenplay is, of course, blackmail, with which Fletcher hopes to exploit Mickey. This convoluted film-within-a-film device also allows Ritchie to quip about pretentiousness and political correctness, snarking about 35mm, Harvey Weinstein’s now shuttered Miramax productions, and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (“it’s a bit boring”).
There’s some amusing casting, such as the plummily posh Grant as an East End scumbag and Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary Crawley as a new-money glamazon, though hearing McConaughey’s Texas drawl order a pint and a pickled egg feels like pure parody that’s hard to buy into.
Ritchie’s signature sweary patter is enjoyable, except for the racism. “You don’t sound like one of the natives,” Ray tells a Russian teenager. “Chinese, Japanese, Pekingese… ricence to kill!” sniggers Grant in a faux-Chinese accent, introducing “Chinaman” Dry Eye, played by Malaysian-British actor Golding. This seems especially pointed, given the racial delineation of the film’s heroes and villains. By Ritchie’s logic, white weed kingpins are entrepreneurs with the moral high ground; Asian heroin-pushers are “the killers of worlds”; and junkies are rich kids who “choose squalor” and are “drowning in white liberal guilt”.
Source: The Guardian
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