The Gentlemen (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A bunch of gentlemen of crime

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Guy Ritchie’s latest work “The Gentlemen” is a cheerfully twisty crime comedy film revolving around a bunch of comic criminal figures. While it is surely not that far from Ritchie’s similar previous films such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) and “Snatch” (2000), the movie provides us a fair share of black humor mixed with violence as supported well by the entertaining performances from most of its main cast members, and the result is fairly funny and delightful on the whole even though it does not bring anything particularly new or fresh to Ritchie’s old turf.

During the early part of the movie, we get a brief summary on the unlikely criminal career of an American dude named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). When he fortunately got a chance to attend Oxford many years ago, he chose to use this opportunity for selling marijuana to many Oxford students, and that was the humble but significant beginning of his marijuana business in Britain. Thanks to his intelligence as well as ruthlessness, it did not take much time for him to rise to the top of the British criminal world along with his business, and, so far, he has continued to reign pretty well while smoothly handling his business process.

However, Mickey begins to feel the need to retire and spend more time with his sassy wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and he soon comes to consider making a deal with Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), a wealthy American businessman quite willing to acquire Mickey’s criminal enterprise. Although marijuana will be legal in Britain within several years, his criminal enterprise will be still quite valuable nonetheless for practical reasons, and all Berger has to do is paying enough money for Mickey’s retirement.

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Of course, as Mickey and Berget are going through their negotiation process, there come several troubles for Mickey, and one of them comes from a cocky local Chinese gangster nicknamed Dry Eye (Henry Golding), who turns out to be also very interested in taking over Mickey’s marijuana business. When he attempts to make an offer to Mickey, Mickey promptly dismisses Dry Eye without much hesitation, and Dry Eye is naturally quite pissed out that, while embarking on whatever he has been planning behind his back.

In the meantime, one of Mickey’s secret Marijuana farms in Britain happens to be invaded by a bunch of local young punks, who have no idea on whom they attempt to steal from. When their no-nonsense leader/mentor, who is usually called “Coach” (Colin Farrell), subsequently comes to learn of his boys’ latest reckless deed, he is not so amused at all, and then he belatedly comes to realize how serious their situation really is.

And there is Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleazy private investigator who is recently hired by the owner of a popular tabloid paper. Having been very resentful of being blatantly snubbed by Mickey not so long ago, Fletcher’s latest client is determined get and then publish anything dirty and scandalous about Mickey, and Fletcher subsequently gets what his latest client wants, but, as already shown to us in the beginning, he has the other idea. He goes to Mickey’s right-hand guy Raymond Smith (Charlie Hunnam), and he impertinently demands lots of cash in exchange for eliminating those sensitive evidences against Mickey.

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In addition, Fletcher has also written a screenplay based on Mickey and other criminal figures around him including Raymond, and he is quite willing to tell everything about it to Raymond, who has no choice but to indulge his blackmailer’s vanity. As frequently hopping amid this part and its other main narratives, the movie throws some self-conscious comic touches, and Hugh Grant, who has always been good at being haughty and obnoxious, savors every minute of his scenes while ably being complemented by Charlie Hunnam, who is somehow funny with his intense and unflappable attitude.

Eventually, the movie arrives at the point where we come to see how its main plot lines and characters converge and then fit together, and we certainly get several good moments for big laughs as expected. For example, I was particularly amused by an uproarious moment involved with a certain unspeakable sexual act, and I also appreciated how the movie pulls some nice surprises from its seemingly pre-determined ending.

Besides Grant and Hunnam, several other main cast members in the film also have a ball with their respective roles as much as they can. While Matthew McConaughey is engaging as usual in his sardonic performance, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, and Edie Marsan willingly throw themselves into broad comic moments, but Michelle Dockery is unfortunately not utilized that well in comparison as being stuck with a thankless job of playing one of a very few substantial female characters in the movie.

Overall, Ritchie, who also wrote the screenplay which is based on the story written by him and his co-writers Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, sticks to his old playbook here in “The Gentlemen”, but he is still capable of providing enough fun and entertainment to us at least. The movie certainly feels familiar in many ways, but it entertained me enough, so I will not grumble for now.

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