Guy Ritchie’s excellent new crime flick, The Gentlemen, is without a doubt the best film he has made to date.
Cast your mind back to his arrival with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The young filmmaker was catapulted onto the scene with critics declaring him to be the British Tarantino. Those films were cutthroat and stylish, with a poetic cinematic language, and while he has infused his trademark style into all of his subsequent films, he has never been able to recapture that original energy… until now.
The story centres around a private exchange between a mysterious and cocky man named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) and a sophisticated man named Raymond (Charlie Hunnam). Fletcher is a storyteller and spins a persuasive yarn about an American drug lord (Matthew McConaughey) who’s looking to sell his multi-billion dollar marijuana empire.
The sale attracts interest from various criminals and sets off a chain of events that sees Ritchie’s trademark style kicked into overdrive. Fletcher’s anecdotal rhetoric bares a side of blackmail that informs the mind games that form the basis of this tangled caper, resulting in the type of ultra-violence and flash-cinematography that confirms Ritchie’s title of auteur.
To reveal any more would be to spoil the fun. You needn’t know who these characters are or what they do because all is revealed in good time.
2019 is the year of the ensemble, with so many films boasting a huge line-up of talent, and The Gentlemen is no exception. Joining Grant, Hunnam and McConaughey are Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsen and Michelle Dockery. It is perhaps Ritchie’s finest assortment of players, with each and every one of them delivering precision performances. To identify a standout amongst them is difficult, however Grant, Farrell and Hunnam all give their best to date. Grant plays against type and savours every line of dialogue with euphoric delight, while Farrell and Hunnam play to type, relishing every opportunity to up the ante.
Ritche’s career has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, and despite the occasional box office hit he has struggled to replicate the impact of those first two films. His style may be present in films like Sherlock Holmes, The Man From UNCLE and even Aladdin, but his loyal fans have been left in the lurch for so long. The Gentlemen is a return to form in the truest sense. It is Ritchie revisiting his old stomping ground, picking up where he left off and reclaiming his former glory. With the passage of time comes a maturity and dexterity that amplifies his vision and galvanises his brand, and the result is glorious.
Take note of the misleading title and its deceptively regal poster treatment, and then behold the juxtaposing anarchy within. The Gentlemen is violent. It is chaotic and crass. It is a masterfully orchestrated opera of criminal mischief, and it is the doing of a veteran filmmaker back at the top of his game. Guy Ritchie… the guy’s still got it… and then some!
In cinemas: January 1, 2020
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery
Directed by: Guy Ritchie