By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – January 23, 2020)
For the first time in a while, I was excited for a Guy Ritchie movie. It isn’t that everything he’s made in recent years has been trash, because that’s untrue. It’s more that I’ve left disappointed relative to my own walk-in expectations. Since Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, he’s never been able to recapture how I felt watching both those films. The first was one I watched over and over again just as I was graduating high school, and then Snatch came around and more people figured out Ritchie had a unique style and his brand of filmmaking was breakneck pacing, but a ton of fun.
The Gentlemen appeared to have similar stylings and one of these larger casts of criminals and lower life forms that would fit more in the motif of how he burst on the scene, rather than some of the bigger budget stuff he’s done. My hopes went up just a bit, but I kept them measured. After viewing the finished product last night, I’m here to tell you…
…it’s definitely Guy Ritchie, but there’s a reason this movie released in January.
This is not a terrible film, but it’s also not a good one. I found myself struggling to stay awake in the first 90 minutes on multiple occasions, mainly because Ritchie so desperately wanted this movie to be clever and memorable in its dialogue and verbal exchanges. A few of them landed, but what generally revealed itself on screen was an attempt to be TOO clever and too cool, rather than just being interesting and investing me in the story. For a tale about million (or billion) dollar marijuana farms and big money deals, it was largely dull until its final act, which saved it from being entirely boring.
The acting was terrific in most respects, with the highlights of the film being Colin Farrell’s “Coach” and Hugh Grant, who went completely against type and played a gangland equivalent of a paparazzi reporter in Hollywood. Charlie Hunnam and Henry Golding were excellent as well, with Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Dockery standing out in the right ways. Jeremy Strong, now well known as Kendall Roy on HBO’s Succession, turned in a different and effective performance, but it was pretty stock and didn’t require much skill.
As many things as Ritchie is trying to throw at you with The Gentlemen, I certainly wish more of it would have actually stuck to the wall, instead of being instantly discarded from my brain. The story is simple enough, as it revolves around Mickey Pearson (McConaughey), a self-made pot baron, attempts to buy his business and potentially just take it over. There are several sides to the story, which is a “tell” tale, in that Hugh Grant’s Fletcher tells us the story as he imparts it to Hunnam’s Raymond at the latter’s home, although Raymond is deeply involved in the story and knows much of it.
Grant is great at laying out the narrative, speaking quickly and with all sorts of diction you wouldn’t anticipate hearing, which is another Ritchie move. It’s almost a separate language that’s supposed to feel cool, but in this movie more or less just feels tacked on at least half the time. You laugh a few times, but then you just kind of want him to get on with it. There are some very over the top moments, including one with a pig, which actually works for comic relief, and as usual, Farrell is instrumental in it. Whenever he’s on screen, the actual script is at its best. The vast majority of this movie is a flat out slog, but Coach is awesome.
There’s plenty of violence, but it isn’t continuous, instead Ritchie doles it out in contained doses, so it’s not all blood and guts and gore, though there’s a little of that to be found as well. It’s a dark story of course, but it simply doesn’t punch you in the way Ritchie’s classic crime capers did, and it leaves you wanting more. I guarantee many will enjoy this more than I did, but although I enjoyed the score and the soundtrack, appreciated the performances, and loved a few of the characters, The Gentlemen in one word can be summed up as DULL.
It’s almost never exciting, the “tell but don’t show” was obnoxious and bothered a few of the critics in my row to a bigger degree than me. This movie was too cute for its own good, trying to be something the script couldn’t back up. There are moments of levity and moments of gravity, but only in January could The Gentlemen release and not be mauled, because there are so many horrific things coming out this month as studios dump the films they knew had no chance at awards or any kind of positive buzz. I mean, Underwater hit theaters a few weeks ago. The Gentlemen is merely mediocre, in that it’s not bad enough to make you hate it, but not good enough that it’s worth your time. When it ends, you’ll be ready to leave.
It’s another pretty forgettable entry from Guy Ritchie, who still hasn’t made a movie since Snatch that I’d feel great about recommending to anyone, although I did like Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, after being incredibly let down by its predecessor. It’s hard to look at those two movies in the wake of the BBC series, which is so far superior as to dwarf any other iteration.
Letter grade? I’ll be a gentleman and give this one a C-. It’s below average, but not by much. I wouldn’t say it’s worth paying to see. You could do worse, but you could do much better as well.