(4.5 / 5)
For those who were just getting familiarised with director Guy Ritchie with the live-action version of Disney’s Aladdin, you might be surprised at his extensive film history. A career that ranges from the hard-hitting, fast-talking crime dramas of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to the successful Sherlock Holmes series with Robert Downey Jr. (We will forget King Arthur ever happened.) Despite his mainstream successes, the realm where he shines is in the brutal crime underworld of the streets of England where no amount of violence or creative use of the English language are off-limits.
The Gentlemen is a return to form for the accomplished writer/director by bringing together a creative collaboration to represent the underbelly of the rich of the United Kingdom. At the centre of this comedic caper is Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a talented, but opportunistic private investigator who is trying to work both sides of a lucrative case that involves the drug lord, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). Instead of going straight to the kingpin, the detective works to lay out his investigation to Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), who is the second most powerful man in the burgeoning drug organisation.
It is rumoured that Mickey is looking to get out of the business as he places his empire on the open market. With various players in the market trying to get in on his business and looking for ways of getting to him by whatever means possible, actions move from the straightforward to the ridiculous. As Fletcher begins to unpack all that he knows about how the drug lord has woven his work into the upper tier of English society and how this information has the potential to expose a vast array of the British who’s who, Raymond must act. His actions are not only to keep the private investigator at bay, but to respond to the threat on his employer and friend’s business, family and life.
There is a difficulty in explaining how Ritchie manages to layer humour, action and mystery into every minute of this film, how each character has a purpose and meaning. All to allow the conclusion to make sense despite the seemingly haphazard nature of the journey. A return to a style that has defined his career since his first few films and one that allows us to forgive him for recent creative missteps.
For the long-suffering fans of the innovative artist, very little explanation or apology is needed to justify his hard-hitting use of language and violence. Each word serves as a punch to the face as it delivers a more profound impact than any of the physical beatings in the movie. This is a genre that is not suited for the faint of heart or those who prefer to reside in the sanitised cinematic existence of Disney live-action remakes. Guy has provided that for people to enjoy, but now he gets back to making films for his adult fan base.
In amongst the celebration of the writing and directing, the one discipline that cannot be under-appreciated is the casting. Few people can personify and master the quick thinking and linguistic gymnastics of a Ritchie script. Hugh Grant is merely the narrator, but he seems to relish playing this smarmy agent who holds the whole story together with each oily word he says.
McConaughey and Hannam are the perfect king and protector of the kingdom with the surprising complement of Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) as the queen of the underworld. To go on and acknowledge every actor for their role would be an impossibility, but stand out would have to be Colin Farrell as Coach. His depiction of the boxing coach and mid-level criminal proves that he is an under-utilised talent as he manages to show his mastery of both the spoken and physical demands of this role.
The Gentlemen is like a violent, love letter to all of Guy Ritchie’s faithful followers and it was worth the wait. A movie that will make you laugh, squirm, cheer and leave you smiling for the rest of the week after exiting the cinema.
Reel Dialogue: What does the Bible say about drug usage?
If there are any moral statements stated in The Gentlemen, it was when Matthew McConaughey’s character, drug-lord Mickey Pearson attempts to explain that marijuana is less an issue than harder drugs. A difficult lesson to accept when he utilises a multitude of illegal and violent methods to promote his business.
Some could argue that the Bible does not say anything about illicit drug usage, which is a true statement. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, cannabis, or any other illegal drugs are not mentioned throughout the canon of scripture. To be clear, their exclusion does not mean that God does not have something to say about them or that it gives license to use them.
Beyond being bad for your health and extending to be outside the realm of acceptable behaviour in our society, one thing that Christians are called to in the Bible is to respect and obey the laws of the land. Passages in the old and new testaments like Ecclesiastes 8:2-5; Matthew 22:21; 23:2-3; and Romans 13:1-7 support the argument against the use of illegal drugs. Even with all of the various arguments for legalising drugs, keep in mind that simply disagreeing with a law does not justify breaking that law.
This is merely scratching the surface in this discussion, but hopefully it can be part of helping to stop this behaviour that is destroying societies around the world.
Background and top films from the director of The Gentlemen