After a decade-long stint of shoddy King Arthur tales and soulless Disney live-action remakes, writer and director Guy Ritchie returns to his bread and butter: British gangster films. Having cut his teeth with films like Locke, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, The Gentleman marks a return to Ritchie’s roots. But has the filmmaker adapted over the past ten years or is this just another flick about cockney geezers and hard men?

The Gentlemen follows marijuana kingpin Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American ex-pat who’s taken over Blighty’s criminal world by pushing the sweet Mary Jane. But when slimy tabloid journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant) uncovers some damning evidence, Mickey’s empire is at risk of being undermined. 

The interweaving characters and plotlines have all the hallmarks of a classic Ritchie film; scheming, blackmail, action and perhaps one too many double-crosses. It’s nothing spectacular, serving more as a showcase of Ritchies typically eccentric interpretation of London’s seedy underbelly, namely the characters who inhabit it. The supporting cast of A-listers, including Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam and Eddie Marson, do an adequate job of bringing these characters to life, however, the lack of depth in writing means that they rarely exceed the levels of moderately entertaining and charismatic. Grant steals the show with his snivelling camp cockney Mick Jagger impression, an admittedly ham-fisted yet satisfying dig at the sensationalist British press.

This sledgehammer delivery is true of most of the film, often lacking subtlety or tension, instead opting for outdated stereotypes and comical cockney rhetoric. From a filmmaking perspective, not much has changed Ritchies style compared to his older works, apart from the odd sprinkle of Sherlock Holmes inspired flash. Some aspects of the narrative have been adapted to suit a more modern audience, but The Gentlemen generally feels like a film stuck in the late naughties. Likewise, any attempts to be smarter or subvert the norm of Ritchie’s previous work is instead undermined by returning to the same cheap twists and tricks.

That being said, the film does deliver everything you’d expect from a Guy Ritchie gangster film, it just struggles to exceed that expectation. The witty dialogue and brash delivery are all there, it just falls short of anything more than a naff British Tarantino knock-off. For those who already enjoy Ritchie’s films, expect more of the same. For anyone else, The Gentlemen offers a genuinely entertaining and exceedingly watchable experience, albeit one you’ll probably forget about soon after you leave the theatre.

3 stars

Image: Movie DB

Luke Baldwin is a Break Editor at Forge Press.

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