Having been plying his trade in more family-friendly fare – including last year’s surprise smash “Aladdin” – “The Gentlemen” sees Guy Ritchie returning to his old stomping ground, although there’s perhaps more than a little hint of autobiography in this tale of a self-styled king of his domain contemplating letting it all go and moving on.
When Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) decides the time has come for him to get out of the drug trade, he starts looking for someone to sell his highly successful operation to. Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), an American cannabis baron, is keen to strike a deal but Mickey has made some powerful enemies and his straightforward retirement plan gets hopelessly entangled with double-crosses, blackmail, betrayal and revenge.
It’s impossible to forget how Ritchie exploded onto the movie scene with “Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatched” some twenty or so years back, nor how Matthew Vaughan studied the energy of those two films (which he produced) and homaged so archly in his own directorial debut “Layer Cake”. This film, then, brings that collaboration full circle in a way because, lacking the rawness of “Lock Stock” or “Snatch”, “The Gentlemen” feels very much like Guy Ritchie doing Matthew Vaughan doing Guy Ritchie.
I don’t intend that as a criticism, either. “The Gentlemen” is a spit ‘n’ polished piece of gangland fantasy cinema, as criminal kingpins act with violent impunity, rubbing elbows with the great and not-so-good of Great Britain while plot and counter-plot play out in pubs and clubs across the capital. Once again, Ritchie has assembled a sensational cast and gets them firing on all cylinders both barrels. High Grant is an absolute delight as the sleazy tabloid journalist who’s decided he can play with the big boys while McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery and Henry Golding are clearly having a blast as they romp around this gentrified gangster paradise England although it’s Colin Farrell who steals the whole damn film out from under his esteemed co-stars with his turn as the noble but profoundly pragmatic Coach.
Foul-mouthed, hilarious, carelessly violent yet carefully plotted, “The Gentlemen” is a gleefully dirty pleasure, a grimy, joyously anarchic gangland game of thrones, only with a wholly satisfying ending.