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Review: ‘The Gentlemen’ elevates the criminal element (Includes first-hand account)

The world learned Guy Ritchie‘s name when he casted Brad Pitt in Snatch as a gypsy boxer whose accent was so heavy and English so contorted, he needed subtitles. Though it was only his second feature film, it put him on the map. In addition, that movie and his debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, proved he had a talent for gangster pictures and their dialogue. Then he made a bunch of other movies over the next 20 years, branching off into similar genres and adapting his skills while refining his penchant for action. Now, he’s returned to write, direct and produce a new, original gangster film, The Gentlemen.

Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is the biggest marijuana dealer in the U.K., building an empire worth hundreds of millions… and now he wants to retire. He offers the lucrative enterprise, intact, to Matthew (Jeremy Strong) for a generous but fair amount. But others have mistaken Mickey’s desire for tranquility as weakness — and when there’s the scent of blood in the water, sharks start to circle. The smallest of these predators is a private investigator (Hugh Grant) who believes he can blackmail Mickey for a hefty sum, revealing all of his cards to Mickey’s right-hand, Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), over the course of an evening. With everyone staying one step ahead of the other, some are bound to go over the edge of the cliff.

This movie isn’t exactly like Ritchie’s first gangster movies as it incorporates some of the other people and plots he’s encountered since making those films. Most noticeably, there’s a detective thread that runs through the picture, which he likely adopted from directing the Sherlock Holmes films. There’s also what appears to be a Black Mirror reference. Ritchie reunites with Hunnam, who starred in his adaptation of King Arthur, while casting a host of well-known actors he hadn’t worked with before, including Colin Farrell, Eddie Marsan, Henry Golding and Michelle Dockery, in addition to those mentioned earlier.

One of Ritche’s signatures is his dialogue. He loves giving characters monologues in which they speak purposefully and, in some instances, poetically about an otherwise benign subject. Several of the personalities in this film have the pleasure of delivering one of these speeches — though none do it with the cool appeal of McConaughey. In addition, conversations are often had in rapid-fire with the characters demonstrating a quick wit that makes one wonder how long it actually took Ritchie to pen the exchanges.

While the opening half of this film lacks some of the clever grit of Ritchie’s earlier offerings, it slowly gets into the groove before going full-tilt with falling bodies, meaningful threats and classic gun play. Fans will appreciate the filmmaker’s return to the genre, while fully enjoying the all-star cast embracing their respective roles.

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam and Michelle Dockery

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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