The Screen Scene: The Gentlemen

The Screen Scene with Scott Phillips

British writer-director Guy Ritchie burst onto the film scene in 1998 with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a rip-roaring crime tale that takes place in the underworld of London, with a large cast of eccentric gangsters and petty criminals. Ritchie returned to that formula with Snatch, a film where Brad Pitt plays a gypsy boxer surrounded by another assortment of colorful criminals. In the process, Ritchie launched actor Jason Statham into international fame.

For the past ten years, Ritchie has made a collection of largely forgettable films: the two Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey, Jr., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and last year’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin. The only highpoint in that stretch was Ritchie’s adaptation of The Man from UNCLE. If you haven’t seen that one, you should rent or buy it immediately.

Ritchie’s latest film, The Gentlemen, is a return to form. Does it ever achieve the cinematic heights of Lock, Stock or Snatch? Not really, but it comes close. My primary knock on The Gentlemen is we’ve seen this all before. But, given the fact that Guy Ritchie is ripping off, well, Guy Ritchie, it’s hard to complain.

In The Gentlemen, Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Pearson, one of the biggest weed dealers in the world. When Mickey decides it’s time to retire and sell his empire, gangsters begin popping out of the woodwork to either buy or steal his business from him.

So, who can Mickey trust? As the film unfolds, there are double crosses and triple crosses, and the bodies start to pile up.

Just like his first two films, The Gentlemen manages to be violent and hilarious, often at the same time. Guy Ritchie’s work reminds me of a British Elmore Leonard. His cinematic world is filled with criminals who think they are smarter than they really are. The audience gets to see their plans and schemes unravel as they’re outsmarted by their rivals.

The Gentlemen features excellent performances across the board, but two actors manage to steal the show. Hugh Grant plays completely against type as a seedy tabloid reporter who wants to sell some information to Mickey in exchange for a golden parachute out of his work-a-day life.

After a career of playing the stammering lead in dozens of romantic comedies, it’s fun to see Hugh Grant get his fingers dirty in a crime film.

Colin Ferrell plays the owner of a local gym who gets swept up into a situation out of his control, but proves to be a very capable criminal himself. Every time Ferrell downplays his matinee idol looks and truly inhabits a character, something magical happens.

The Gentlemen is nothing new. this territory has been strip-mined by many filmmakers in the past. But still, it’s an enjoyable night at the theater. The Gentlemen is playing in theaters everywhere. I give it three-and-a-half popcorn buckets, or three popcorn buckets and a small box of candy. Take your pick.

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