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In Theaters: THE GENTLEMEN (2020)

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THE GENTLEMEN
(US - 2020)

Written and directed by Guy Ritchie. Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Tom Wu, Bugzy Malone, Jason Wong, Lyne Renee, Chidi Ajufo, Simon Barker, John Dagleish, Eliot Sumner, Samuel West, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Tom Rhys Harries, Danny Griffin, Mark Rathbone, Andrew Greenaugh. (R, 113 mins)

After a decade of playing the big-budget Hollywood franchise game with Robert Downey Jr.'s two SHERLOCK HOLMES films, the underrated THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., the costly flop KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, and the live-action ALADDIN, writer/director Guy Ritchie returns to his LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH roots with the twisty, convoluted, and wildly entertaining THE GENTLEMEN. He hasn't revisited these sorts of "fookin''ell, mate!" British gangster shenanigans since 2008's middling ROCKNROLLA, but buoyed by a game cast and a gleeful willingness to offend everyone, THE GENTLEMEN manages to be a lot of fun despite Ritchie not really having any new tricks up his sleeve. You could call it LOCK, STOCK 4: ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, as Matthew McConaughey stars as expat American Mickey Pearson, who came to London from trailer park America with a genius-level IQ and a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford that he blew off when he found being a weed dealer for his rich and spoiled classmates was more lucrative. And in the years since, he's set up a massive empire in the UK covering all facets from production to distribution. He's incredibly wealthy, has a ton of guys on his payroll to do any required dirty work, and he uses the property of lesser-ranking, under-the-radar royals to secretly house his dozen underground facilities in exchange for a cut of the profits.





But Mickey's been in the game a long time and he wants to retire, which brings everyone out of the woodwork in an attempt to buy out his operation, including unscrupulous American billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong, reuniting with McConaughey after last year's SERENITY triumph) and Dry Eye (Henry Golding), an ambitious underboss with a Chinese mob outfit who's looking to break away from his boss Lord George (Tom Wu). There's also Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleazy private eye who's been hired by tabloid publisher Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) to dig up dirt on Mickey after he's snubbed by him at a swanky society gathering, to the delight of onlookers. And Big Dave knows Mickey has connections to distant Royal Family member Lord Pressfield (Samuel West), whose runaway daughter Laura (Eliot Sumner, youngest daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler) is a heroin addict. But Fletcher has his own ideas of taking the information he's gathered and selling it to Ray (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey's loyal right-hand man, occasionally embellishing his findings with some Hollywood bells and whistles in the hope that it could be sold as a script (Ritchie has some meta fun with this aspect, including a bit where the scheming Fletcher meets with a producer who has a 2015 MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. poster in his office). Double, triple, quadruple, and quintuple crosses ensue, with shifting loyalties and unexpected players--including Mickey's take-no-shit wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and Coach (Colin Farrell), a tough Irish bloke who runs a gym for underprivileged kids, and who's pulled into the proceedings when a few of his ne'er-do-wells foolishly decide to steal some of Mickey's product.


In other words, it's pretty much business as usual for old-school Ritchie fans, but it's done with enough style and panache that you won't mind the familiarity, sort-of like listening to a new AC/DC album. It's exactly what you think it is, it strictly adheres to a carved-in-stone formula, and it doesn't fix what isn't broken (unless you really want Ritchie to make another REVOLVER). It's comfort food of sorts if you're a LOCK, STOCK fan...that is, as long as you can still laugh at insensitive jokes (at the expense of pretty much everyone, for instance Fletcher describing Dry Eye as "a Chinese James Bond...with a ricense to kill") and extraordinarily profane dialogue being rattled off by some very bad guys (this may set a new record for the number of times "cunt" is yelled in a movie). The cast is having a blast, particularly Grant, who seems to be doing a scathing Ricky Gervais impression and keeps not-very-subtly hitting on Hunnam's Ray. An underused Farrell gets a few moments to shine in the de facto Vinnie Jones role, but it's really more of an ensemble piece when it's all said and done, despite the focus on Mickey, and even then, McConaughey is offscreen for a couple of long-ish stretches. Twists and turns pile up at an absurd rate near the end, and THE GENTLEMEN is a really good time if vintage Guy Ritchie is what you're after. He also gives you one of the more blatant shout-outs to THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY that you'll ever see, and that's a nice bonus.

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