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Review: The Gentlemen (2019)

The bro in your life is going to love it.

In The Gentlemen (2019), Hugh Grant’s character gives a brief review of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) saying, “it wasn’t really for me. A bit boring to be honest.”

I feel like that perfectly sums up The Gentlemen.

At least, in my opinion. Look, director Guy Ritchie has been on thin ice with me since delivering the less than impressive live-action Aladdin (2019). By the way, check out my review here. Despite his probationary status, I thought to myself, “hey, this is a crime-y action comedy based on an original idea much like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000). This is what Ritchie excels at. Maybe it’ll be great!” Plot twist, it was not great. Fans of Ritchie’s distinct tone and style may enjoy The Gentlemen, but I spent the nearly two-hour runtime fairly unenthused.

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 11.19.02 PM
Credit: / STXfilms / Entertainment Film Distributors

The Gentlemen follows Mickey Pearson, an American marijuana kingpin based in the UK. When he decides to get out of the game and sell his business, he attracts the attention of a handful of other shady characters. Soon a game of blackmail, theft and murder ensues as the plans of various crime organizations become tangled together.

I’m pretty sure that’s what the movie is about. Honestly, the story is kind of confusing and largely forgettable. What makes it even weirder is that Hugh Grant’s character, Fletcher, tells the entire plot of the movie – what every other character is thinking and doing – to Charlie Hunnam’s character, Raymond, in the form of a long-winded movie pitch. Many times, I was like, “Wait, so did that actually happen or is Fletcher embellishing for the sake of his screenplay?” Trying to follow what anyone is talking about in this movie is a fool’s errand and in the first 10 minutes I was lost. It doesn’t help that none of the characters speak as a real person would, often rambling on in pretentious and overdramatic tones about things that have zero impact on the story. For a movie that featured so many scenes of people talking, I never understood the stakes of what they were discussing, their importance, or why any of it mattered. In every sense of the term, The Gentlemen is pure style over substance.

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 11.15.41 PM
Credit: / STXfilms / Entertainment Film Distributors

Let’s talk about that style. Just from looking at the poster, I assumed The Gentlemen was the latest spinoff in The Kingsman (2014 – present) franchise. In terms of costume design and set production, The Gentlemen is a stunning movie to watch. It’s so specific that it feels like it’s in a world of its own. I may not have always been interested in what each character was saying, but damn, was I interested in what they were wearing.

Speaking of interesting, while Hunnam and Matthew McConaughey deliver solid and charismatic performances in the lead roles, they were the ones who held my attention the least. Surprisingly, it was the characters with the least amount of screentime who I most wanted the movie to be about! Where’s the movie about fabulous Michelle Dockery and her garage full of badass female mechanics? Where’s the movie about Colin Farrell training a group of track-suit clad youths who also rap? Where’s the movie about Henry Golding as this upstart, ambitious gang leader? Sidenote, Golding plays a fantastic villain and I’d love to seem him go after more roles like this. There are potentially interesting storylines teased in The Gentlemen, but the movie never bothers to pursue them. The acting in The Gentlemen is pretty great but the story, and the characters the story is most devoted to, aren’t much to write home about. For a large part of the movie, I was bored and at one point, could not believe that I there was still another hour of movie left. If I were watching The Gentlemen on a plane, I probably would have switched it off around the 20-minute mark.

The movie certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of action and organized crime-related content, but when the story is as weak as it is, everything even remotely interesting just comes off as white noise. Both in dialogue and editing, The Gentlemen is reminiscent of Tarantino. In short, it was kind of up its own ass. I just got the feeling that Ritchie thought he had created the coolest, slickest, most brilliant story of the year and it was nothing of the sort. Again, I’m most definitely not this movie’s target audience. I’m confident that The Gentlemen will find a base of fans who will sing its praises. Unfortunately, any movie that features a disappointing ending, projectile vomiting and an excessive use of the C word to the point that it’s lost any semblance of shock value, is just not the movie for me. However, I am 10,000 per cent here for this campy, unrecognizable, performance Grant gives throughout. He’s an unexpected delight.

Should you rush to theatres to see The Gentlemen? In my opinion, no, don’t worry about it. Not to sound like a broken record, but you’re going to end up either loving this movie or finding it intolerable. In a weird way, that makes it the perfect compromise movie. Watch it to placate the bro in your life who will become an instant fan, and then just spend the runtime ogling the costumes. Trust me, they’re great.

Are you a fan of Guy Ritchie? Will you see The Gentlemen?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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