It’s hard to believe Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels came out 20 years ago. Since that time, Ritchie has certainly proved himself to be a man of many hats. There’s the good — Lock, Stock, RocknRolla, both Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — the bad — Snatch and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword — and the ugly — Revolver and Swept Away. He also directed the underrated live action Aladdin. For those who like their Ritchie pure and uninhibited, he’s gone back to the basics with The Gentlemen — one of his best films yet.
Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) is the reigning king of weed in the UK and wants to retire. He’s in the midst of accepting a $400 million buyout from Matthew (Jeremy Strong) when his right hand man, Ray (Charlie Hunnam), gets paid a visit by tabloid photographer — and now aspiring screenwriter — Fletcher (Hugh Grant). Fletcher offers Ray the plot of a lifetime. Rife with powerful wives — Mickey’s, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery); scheming gangster underbosses — Dry Eye (Henry Golding); Fletcher’s own vengeful editor, Big Dave (Eddie Marsan); and Coach (Colin Farrell), all trying to get their hands on the prize: Mickey’s empire.
If there’s one thing Ritchie knows, it’s sudden bursts of violence, hilarious dialogue, and twisty plots. He’s always been a pseudo Tarantino from across the pond, but that’s not a slight in the least. The Gentlemen is definitely one of his most polished. Ritchie has found a way to keep exposition — which could have been tedious and repetitious — going for an entire film here. Then there’s Grant and Farrell stealing every scene. McConaughey does an amazing spoof of his onscreen persona — the opening scene feels like there’s a Cadillac commercial attached — and this is the most enjoyable Hunnam has been since Pacific Rim (maybe even since Undeclared).
Ritchie can’t help but get a little indulgent here and there. Thankfully, it somehow all makes sense by the end, extra kudos there. It’s Ritchie’s version of a crowd-pleaser melded on top of his films from yesteryear and it winds up a perfect concoction. While some may find the violence off-putting, they probably shouldn’t be seeing a Guy Ritchie movie anyway. This is pure Ritchie from start to finish and it’s about time the old chap finally got back to his signature style.