I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
After his doomed King Arthur retelling and the shining, shimmering and (somewhat) splendid live-action issue of Aladdin, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie climbs a few branches down the money tree to shake around his storytelling roots.
In his new shoot-’em-up, titled The Gentlemen (don’t get it confused with the Kingsmen movies), Ritchie once again examines the seedy underbelly of England’s small-time criminal element.
It’s not exactly profound, nor does it have much to say. If you’ve seen Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, you’ve pretty much seen all his British gangster flicks. And yet, as the director returns for a fourth swig of the formula in which he’s tasted success, you may walk out of the cinema door with a fairly satisfied grin.
Populated with Ritchie’s usual flares of sharped-dressed men pointing weapons and spitting C-bombs at one another amid extravagant double-crosses (maybe even triple), The Gentlemen is a slapped-together feature of felonious high jinks. It’s fixed on Hugh Grant’s waggish tabloid private-eye character, Fletcher, who pays an unexpected visit to criminal fixer Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) during the wee hours of the night.
Fletcher unloads some tall tale in Raymond’s kitchen as if he’s pitching a screenplay to a movie studio. The story within the story is about tweed-suited Californian weed dealer Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). Among other things, Mickey gave the cold shoulder to Fletcher’s editor (Eddie Marsan) at a cocktail party. The humiliating gesture could see all hell breaking loose for Mickey, which could also mean bad news for Raymond.
That’s only a small fraction of what’s going on The Gentlemen. To attempt to break down how bumbling, low-life characters — like the ones Jeremy Strong, Tom Wu and Colin Farrell portray — fit into all this would require thumbtacks and string. There are so many cooks in the kitchen that it’ll make your head spin. The fact that the movie is told in a storytelling fashion only further intertwines its double-helix appearance. Even the characters are confused by what’s happening. So maybe we shouldn’t read too much into everything. (It sets in around 40 minutes in, if you can survive that.)
If it weren’t for the delightfully eccentric performances, I would have aborted this mission early on. All the actors seem to be having a jolly good time using British slang and beating people up. Farrell, who plays a dangerous boxing instructor named Coach, has a field day with a man whose last name is Phuc. Grant’s curiosity and humorous storytelling abilities will surely give you a bellyache. But perhaps the biggest laugh comes from Hunnam, who pulls off a scheme as extreme as an Ace Ventura stunt. You’ll know it when it happens.
As much as I would have liked to have seen deeper character dives (such as them confronting each other to cause audiences to question how they think and feel), The Gentlemen is a riot. It may slip your mind as the year goes on, but for a January movie, there aren’t as many wrinkles in its pressing as you’d think. It’s just a secondhand store-bought product.
THE GENTLEMEN is now playing in theaters.