THE GENTLEMAN teaser movie poster | ©2019 STX Films

THE GENTLEMEN teaser movie poster | ©2019 STX Films

Rating: R
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Tom Wu, Chidi Ajufo, Eddie Marsan
Writer: Guy Ritchie, story by Guy Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies
Director: Guy Ritchie
Distributor: STX Films
Release Date: January 24, 2020

THE GENTLEMEN boasts a mostly welcome return to early form by filmmaker Guy Ritchie. With THE GENTLEMEN, Ritchie is back in the realm of British crime, which he played with so successfully in his first feature, LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, and just slightly less delightfully in his follow-up SNATCH.

Ritchie directed and wrote (from a story he crafted with Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies) THE GENTLEMEN, which positions American Mickey Pearson as the undisputed king of England’s illegal marijuana trade. We don’t just have to take anyone’s word for it; we get a tour of Mickey’s operation, and it’s actually more or less plausible.

But Mickey would like to retire – with money – to spend more time with his beloved wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery). He also doesn’t want to be responsible for a lot of deaths, which tends to be a problem for a lot of crime lords, so he’s trying to sell his empire to wealthy fellow Yank Matthew (Jeremy Strong).

However, there are complications on top of complications. We are filled in on nearly all of them by sleazy journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant, having a blast as a working-class chatterbox), who is trying to extort cash out of Mickey via his lieutenant Ray (Charlie Hunnam). Fletcher sets up what’s to come, and then it plays out, with a few rewinds and revisions along the way.

THE GENTLEMEN movie poster | ©2019 STX Films

THE GENTLEMEN movie poster | ©2019 STX Films

THE GENTLEMEN gets off to a hilariously meta start. The style settles down a little thereafter, but the energy crackles all the way through, as do the twists, jokes, and snappy dialogue.

The casting is superb, with McConaughey as the quietly dashing good guy high-end pot dealer. Hunnam finds a lot of humor in underplaying Ray’s reactions. Dockery is swell as Mickey’s tough-minded spouse, and Strong is steady as the acquisitive businessman. Other standouts in the cast include Colin Farrell as a gym owner and Eddie Marsan as Fletcher’s muck-raking boss.

So what’s to complain about? For starters, there’s an air of self-satisfaction that sometimes gets the better of the proceedings. Then there’s the ugly side to this.

Throughout THE GENTLEMEN, Fletcher keeps peddling his screenplay about the story’s events, which he’s titled BUSH. “Bush,” non-Britons will learn here, is slang for weed, pot, etc. It’s possible that BUSH was the original title of THE GENTLEMEN, but somebody persuaded the filmmakers that outside the U.K., this was likely to make potential viewers think the movie was either about a U.S. president or a relative of Groot. A few more suggestions about how certain other things might play outside of the filmmakers’ immediate circle might not have gone amiss.

THE GENTLEMEN clearly wants to be seen as bravely anti-PC. That’s just another way of saying that it indulges in racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. Make of this what you will, but for some (like this reviewer), it downgrades the overall quality of the experience.

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