By Ambar Chatterjee
'Guy Ritchie serves up another delicious tale characterized by his trademark humor and fascinating characters'
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell
Director: Guy Ritchie
Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)
Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is a genius agriculturist who has over the years created a whooping Marijuana empire using his ingenious knowledge of agriculture and sharp intellect. He can also be physical when he needs to as depicted in a telling scene. After making a killing in the business, there comes a time when he realizes that he has to sell his empire to the highest bidder as the forthcoming policies may put him out of business for good. As word of his decision to sell his empire gets out, a horde of not-so-good people pounces on the opportunity to get his empire for a price much lower than what it is worth. In order to lower the price, they are willing to cheat, kidnap and murder. Mickey with the help of his trusted aid Ray (Charlie Hunnam) must juggle all the odds stacked up against him and get the best deal out for his empire.
The above synopsis is barely scratching the surface of the plot that Guy Ritchie takes us through in just about 2 hours. The ones who have watched and appreciated his cinema for years know this all too well that Ritchie always brings a layered and rather jam-packed narrative to the table that is complete with numerous subplots that are all interwoven to the spine of the basic narrative. None of these sub-plots are there just for the sake of increasing the runtime but are integral to the narrative. That is exactly the case with The Gentlemen. We have a con-artist/screenplay writer, Fletcher (Hugh Grant) through whose narration we see the whole plot unfold. Fletcher tells his version of the whole story to Ray assuming that he has enough information about Mickey and his scam. His idea is to blackmail Mickey for a hefty sum of money to keep the secrets that he believes he has unearthed with considerable effort and intelligence. Dry Eye (Henry Golding), an oriental mob boss is interested in Mickey's empire but Mickey for some reason despises him. He has his own plans to get the better of Mickey or he might be just a pawn controlled by someone very powerful.
Matthew (Jeremy Strong) is Mickey's favorite bidder to take over his empire. He is a conniving operator who is playing his own dirty games to lower the price of the enterprise. Coach (Collin Farrell) runs his own boxing coaching. Some of his students band together to form a unique group that is a mish-mash between foot-tapping musical performances and bone-breaking thuggery. His students are coerced into raiding one of Mickey's operations. Following that mishap, Coach is forced to do Mickey's bidding to get his students exonerated from Mickey and Ray's wrath. Mickey is called in to help one of his business associates and as Ray does what is needed, to help out of the associate, his men unknowingly kill someone whose death would come back to haunt them all in the end. Oh! And there is also the media man who is hell-bent on crucifying Mickey as he had mistreated him in a party that he just couldn't afford to be insulted in.
As one watches this film, there are numerous other minor details and smaller subplots that make their presence felt and affect the overall proceedings. However, even with so much happening and so many characters to deal with, Ritchie neither loses focus of his narrative nor the proceedings become difficult to follow. That is essentially the second best thing that I noticed about the film. The best thing about the film, hands down, would be the performances by the ensemble cast. Ritchie, as has been the case with him earlier, ropes in some of the biggest heavyweights of Hollywood and yet is able to humanize the characters that they are made to play in bizarre ways.
Hugh Grant was easily the biggest surprise for me. He totally becomes Fletcher and shuns everything that we know or might have appreciated about the man. Here, he is a lecherous lowlife who is essentially a coward but also very foxy. I just loved the way he sets out to tell his version of the whole plot and how he uses the filmic elements of a screenplay to put forth certain points in his story. At the end of the film, we see him pitch the script that he wanted to sell Ray to Miramax. This script is essentially the story of the film we are watching. Interestingly, Miramax is the producer of this film. That was an interesting touch on the part of the director. It wouldn't be wrong to say that Grant grabs your attention in every scene that he is a part of. That isn't an easy thing to do when you are sharing screen space with Charlie Hunnam.
That brings me to Hunnam who I believe was outstanding in this film. He plays a character that throughout the film tries to maintain a calm and composed exterior but situations constantly keep taking him to places that force him to resort to violence. Every time he has to take the hard path one can see his dissatisfaction reflected on his face. That is something that made these scenes hilarious. Hunnam plays well within the limits of his character and compliments both McConaughey and Grant perfectly. McConaughey is one of the most fascinating actors of recent times and his mere presence and the sound of his silken voice is enough to light up the screen. Here he plays someone who is a perfect gentleman and a visionary scientist of sorts. However, there are certain scenes when he shuns all that shine and turns into a gun-toting thug complete with a thundering roar. Those are the scenes that I enjoyed the most in his act. That doesn't mean that he wasn't good in the other parts but these were the scenes that were designed to grab our attention and they did.
Even though Colin Farrell has a small part in this film, it is hilarious and assumes a lot of importance in the end. It wouldn't be wrong to say that our protagonists are literally saved by him. He plays the part with a lot of conviction and it never for once felt as if he was just sleepwalking through his part. There is a scene towards the end where he and Hunnam watch a shocking video and the look on their faces is something that you will definitely take away from the film. Henry Golding might just be the only out-and-out negative character in the whole film. He is noticeable and makes his presence felt when he has to. I really enjoyed the scene where his character tries to convince Mickey to sell his empire to him. The way this scene plays out is masterful especially the point where he shows Mickey the price he is willing to pay and the manner in which he does it.
The Gentlemen is a welcome return to form for Guy Ritchie after the pathetic Arthur: The Sword In The Stone and the atrocious Aladdin. His forte is gangster films and he proves yet again that he has a lot left in him to make a few more films about quirky and dangerous people whose lives intertwine and serve a healthy dose of oddball humor and retro-ultraviolence. As long as he is making films that are this good, I will definitely be lining up to watch them.