[Review] ‘THE GENTLEMEN’ loads laughs into a standard crime-ridden tale

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

THE GENTLEMEN

Rated R, 113 minutes.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding and Eddie Marsan

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.

Grade: B-

THE GENTLEMEN is now playing in theaters.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.