“The Gentlemen,” kinetic, cheeky and relentless

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Photo courtesy of Mirimax Pictures

Few filmmakers have been as controversial among cinephiles as Guy Ritchie, the English director behind cinema legends like “Snatch,” “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Sherlock Holmes,” and behind critical duds like the 2019 “Aladdin” and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” 

In the twenty years since “Snatch” stole our breath away with a kinetic romp in an engaging underworld, moviegoers have eagerly anticipated Ritchie’s recreation of the magic he instilled in his earlier creations. To everyone’s delight, his most recent film, “The Gentlemen,” finally delivers. 

Matthew McConaughey stars as Mickey Pearson, a smart kid from Who Cares, USA turned hemp-king of London town, controlling a reefer-realm worth over $500 million, who comes under fire when he tries to get out of the game and sell his bushy business to another bud(ding) businessman. 

Pearson’s a criminal with a code who built himself up from nothing, which meant that he had to bloody his hands quite a bit to get where he is now. His appearance might be clean, but his past certainly is not. 

As a truly classy criminal, Pearson loves nothing in the world more than his beloved wife and now seeks to retire from the world of weed, putting violence and unpleasantness behind him. 

As soon as Pearson tries to get out, the other sharks in the underground drug-world smell some bloody bhang and try to take a bite out of his game. 

When the deal goes sour, Pearson is forced to reestablish himself as the sole marijuana mogul in the UK and assert dominance, along with his debonair crew, over those trying to sneak away chunks of his stoned empire. 

Partnered with Pearson is the ever so polite and well-mannered Ray, played by Charlie Hunnam in his most engaging role ever, along with Pearson’s fiercely loyal and badass wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) and the streetwise, yet classy, Coach (Colin Farrell). 

While Pearson and his associates fight off the antagonist Dry-Eyes (Henry Golding) and others, Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a dirty private-eye looking to blackmail his way to 20 million pounds, sits on the fence, tucking away incriminating evidence. 

“The Gentlemen” is more than a return to form for Ritchie: it is an enhancement of all that made Ritchie such a compelling filmmaker in the first place. Kinetic, plot-driven character development, dark humor, engaging perspective, smart cinematography and a relentlessly entertaining narrative define this absolute blast of a film. 

The characters of “The Gentlemen” are the most entertaining and engaging chaps one could ever hope to experience in a crime-thriller-comedy, especially when their film debuted in the cinematic ghost town of January. 

Ritchie’s characters are a joy to watch on screen. This writer/director’s talent for creating compelling and keen characters is evident throughout the film. Even more so, his direction for the characters he wrote perfectly complements the intrigue he so intricately weaves within the first minutes of the film. 

Hunnam and Grant particularly add much to this film both in their captivating on-screen chemistry and the sheer amount of fun they both appear to have in playing their characters’ constantly captivating game of intellectual one-upmanship. 

Additionally, the stylistic direction by which many have come to know Ritchie, which seemed a bit jarring in his “Sherlock Holmes” films and completely out of place in “Aladdin,” is a perfect fit for this type of thriller. 

Sometimes the story is hard to follow, but that is clearly an intentional move on Ritchie’s part that pays off. Moviegoers will be left itching for a second viewing after being exposed to the complex web of writing that produced this picture. Indeed, Ritchie seems to have learned from his prior experiences and delivered a script that perfectly matches the type of filmmaking that he does best.

In “The Gentlemen,” Ritchie doubles down on everything he is best at and makes a stylish, lively, bold and absorbing film. It is unlikely to attract new admirers, as his undeniably R-rated brand of movie-making is not suited to everyone’s tastes, but it will be a riotously fun time for all who have been holding out hope for another hit from the, now re-coronated, king of crime-filmmaking. 

“The Gentlemen” is not an instant classic or a masterpiece of cinema for the ages, but it is a film that delivers ample amounts of dynamic entertainment and intrigue that will have you quoting its cheeky lines and reliving the experience all the way home from the theater. 

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