Guy Ritchie returns to his roots with The Gentlemen. It’s a film set in the London underworld and filled with the colorful characters that marked his debut over two decades ago with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Ritchie hasn’t dipped his toes into this territory since 2008’s RocknRolla as he’s tried his hand at blockbuster filmmaking. He turned Sherlock Holmes into an action hero, made the vastly underrated The Man from UNCLE, flopped with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and scored a billion dollar box office hit with Aladdin though the live-action remake received tepid reviews.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Mickey Pearson, an American who received a scholarship to study horticulture at Oxford. He quickly dropped out and established a vast criminal empire distributing marijuana all across Europe. Pearson grows his plants in bunkers underneath the countryside lands of the wealthy, who now need his financial support to maintain their Downton Abbey-esque lifestyles. Now, he’s looking to retire and spend more time with his lovely wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery). He offers the entire business for $400 million to posh billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong, bearing a strong resemblance to Alan Cumming), but an ambitious gangster known as Dry Eye (Henry Golding) wants the operation for himself.
The story unfolds through a framing device centered around sleazy private investigator Peter Fletcher (Hugh Grant) recanting every twist and turn to Mickey’s right-hand man Raymond Smith (Charlie Hunnam) as if he were pitching a screenplay.
The cast is undoubtedly the centerpiece of The Gentlemen with McConaughey as his usual charming self. It’s Hugh Grant who truly serves as the highlight. He’s aged from rom-com leading man to character roles as seen here and in Paddington 2. Sporting a goatee and doing his best Michael Caine, Grant is clearly enjoying himself as the opportunistic Fletcher. Another treat is watching Colin Farrell in action as Coach, a plaid tracksuit wearing MMA trainer whose proteges unknowingly steal Pearson’s crops. Farrell has great comedic skills and they are put to use with Ritchie’s florid dialogue.
The script by Guy Ritchie (with story credits to Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson) is part and parcel for the genre, ripped right out of the Tarantino playbook. We even get a scene of Farrell and Hunnam peering into the trunk of a car, one of Tarantino’s favorite leitmotifs. There are double crosses, darkly humorous moments out of violent situations, a hefty helping of profanity, and a little bit of casual racism.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The picture quality is flawless, right down to finer details like the scruff on the actors’ facial hair.
The audio is presented in Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Dialogue comes in crisp and clear. For scenes that are heavier on the action, the effects reverberate with the soundtrack flowing through the channels.
To say the bonus features are anemic is an understatement. No commentary track or anything substantial whatsoever.
Best Gentlemanly Quips (3:09) is a montage of all the movie’s best insults.
Glossary of Cannabis (0:46) is a quick tutorial of all the marijuana-themed terminology used in the film.
Behind the Scenes (1:36) is a glorified commercial for the movie. It’s just trailer clips interspersed with scant snippets from the cast.
Rounding out the extras are a photo gallery presented as a slideshow.
Film Value: 7
Is The Gentlemen truly a return to form for Guy Ritchie? Not exactly. It never reaches the heights of Lock, Stock or Snatch and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the film. However, it is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. Not too healthy, but the viewer knows exactly what they’re going to get and it’s satisfying nonetheless.