The Gentlemen is studded with an ensemble cast consisting of Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam and Colin Farrell. The violent tone is set from the opening scene as Michael “Mickey” Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American Expat from Texas, walks into a bar, orders a beer and hard-boiled egg, then an unrevealed character pulls out a gun from behind him, next thing we know there’s blood pouring into the beer mug in a close-up. Somewhere in the second act, a henchman is held captive in the trunk of a car photographed in a Tarantino-esque point-of-view. When the duck-tape around his ankles are cut-off, he darts away and around the corner, lunging himself over the edge of a barrier, only to land on train tracks and ran over by an oncoming locomotive. A crew of boxers that train under the Coach (Colin Farrell), who owns a renowned boxing gym, wear GoPro cameras on head mounts and record their buffoonery followed by posting them on YouTube. These are just a few outrageous sequences that add to the comedic elements of The Gentlemen, directed by Guy Ritchie, who appears to have returned to his roots of filmmaking as we witness elements from his earliest works like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), as well as Snatch (2000).
Mickey has become the king of the marijuana empire in Britain and is preparing to offer his lucrative business for sale which inevitably generates various groups to conspire organized overthrows of endeavors to take a crack at Mickey and steal his gains right from under his feet. Mickey’s intentions are to elope with his ‘lady wife’ Rosalind Pearson (Michelle Dockery) who is arguably the most coldblooded character in the film while maintaining a sensually stimulating presence with her alluring eyes and Queen-like demands. The who’s who of Britain organize schemes to execute mafia style assassinations upon Mickey and his wife, preventing them from having their ways.
The film stays grounded on Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a undercover snoop, who catches Ray (Charlie Hunnam), the loyal associate of Mickey, up-to-speed on the entire dilemma. Fletcher is the narrator for Ray, and in turn, the narrator for the audience. As he tells the story of his extortion plan, accompanied by a short screenplay he’s written which he intends on later turning into a feature movie, Guy Ritchie, the director of this movie, cuts to flashbacks with Fletcher’s voice-over guiding us through, which at times, appeared like a tangled mess, but we can continue to watch because the antics we see are outrageous and at times, slightly amusing.
Guy Ritchie employs several references to cinema pop-culture; frozen dead bodies being hanged like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), characters being held captive in trunks like Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), and a reference to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974); a nod to the film with respect, even though Fletcher’s character says the film was boring (which it absolutely wasn’t), it was a shout-out from Guy Ritchie, calling the film a classic (which it absolutely was). Even when Fletcher begins to tell Ray, and us in the audience, the backstories in narrative form, he calls out how the picture quality will change to the grainy 35mm projection, which it does, in addition to changing the aspect ratio to a 16:9 letterbox format, which literally modifies on the screen; a devise that’s used as a tactic to break the fourth wall between the film and the audience, made popular by the French New Wave filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard.
This is the second time we’ve recently seen Matthew McConaughey portray a character involved with marijuana – Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum (2019), where he played a rebellious stoner. Except this time he’s involved in its trade; not its use. The Gentlemen is an amusing film that combines comedic elements with great actors performing at the top of their game in terms of their delivery in dialogue and skills in expression. Fair warning nevertheless: this so-called amusement is mixed with intense, disturbing sequences of violence and grotesque situations mixed with witty dialogue and gags leaving you confused as how to feel, and at times you’re left wondering who’s who, what’s what, and why.