The king of the jungle, a London-based gangster and high-powered drug dealer, has been killed. Or, so says Fletcher (Hugh Grant), an investigative reporter who’s stumbled onto a scoop so good, he might as well parlay it into blackmail and a screenplay.
Ray (Charlie Hunnam), the kings’ second in command, doesn’t believe Fletcher, but he’ll hear him out. Though, he probably didn’t think Fletcher’s tale would take this long and involve two bottles of fine single malt and a couple of wagyu steaks. But it does, and Fletcher waxes poetic while weaving an intricate tale of a mogul ready to get out of the game. Of hip-hop boxers who turn out to be a hell of a lot tougher than underworld cronies expect. Of the unintended death of an ex-KGB agent’s heroin addled son. And of a Chinese syndicate with daddy issues.
They all revolve around Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), but in reality, they all revolve around the choice threads each of these characters sport. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, The Gentlemen feels more like a GQ photo-shoot come to life than the tightly constructed Rube Goldberg plot Ritchie thinks it is.
Though it comes close, so close that The Gentlemen holds your attention for the nearly two-hour elaborate tale of espionage, double-crosses, and who’s zoomin’ who, before the whole thing deflates like a party balloon at bedtime.
As far as modern-day gangster pictures go, Ritchie’s have always been on the stylish side. You wouldn’t call them “original,” but they do have a unique flavor to them. But The Gentlemen feels less like a Ritchie movie and more like a derivation of a Ritchie movie with a pinch of Quentin Tarantino and a dash of Get Shorty tossed in. And while those movies raced about with vim and vigor, The Gentlemen plods a little and sags a lot.
But those machinations are not the draw. The super-slick suits with dapper-looking actors inside are, and they do not disappoint. Each one seems to be having more fun than the next, and Ritchie’s love for thick accents adds plenty. If only The Gentlemen’s structure and meta-denouement had guided more and got in the way less. Form follows function. True in architecture, true in cinema.
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie
Story by Guy Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies
Produced by Ivan Atkinson, Bill Block, Guy Ritchie
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery
STX Films, Rated R, Running time 113 minutes, Opens January 24, 2020