The Gentlemen is about marijuana kingpin Mickey Pearson and his desire to get out of the life while he's on top of the game. There are a mixed bag of colorful cockney characters who attempt to be the one to take over. Yet, there are also obstacles presented that intend to take the business by force rather than by cash. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Tom Wu, Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan, and Michelle Dockery. It is directed by Guy Ritchie and is written by Ritchie with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies supplying the story.
Small disclaimer at the beginning. British slang and insults often, and with liberal abandon, use the word "cunt." This film uses this word frequently and to illustrate my point there are a few times when I use it as a quote.
I must admit I was pretty excited going into this film. I really enjoyed Ritchie's previous forays into comedy crime capers, but I think as I watched The Gentlemen, I realized why I haven't revisited those in quite a while. They likely have the same groan worthy gimmicks, racism, sexism, and homophobia as The Gentlemen.
The film revels in its gimmicks. It has them all, the multiple versions of events, the title cards for points of interest, the cutting to film projectors when talking about movies, the wiseass know it all telling the whole story to another character and us. These gimmicks are rote, unnecessary and overly complicate a story that could be incredibly engaging if that story was shown not constantly and incessantly told.
As far as the racism goes, I believe most movie goers, at least moviegoers who look like me, will shrug it off and defend the choice. They could argue, and would be valid in saying, that the racism present is a character choice, that there are backwards thinking people like this in our world. They may even point to the scene in which Colin Farrell's character explains to the fighter he's training that the sparring partner in the ring who called the fighter, Ernie, a "black cunt" was simply stating that Ernie is black and he is a cunt as an example that the character is not racist and of a progressive idea. Of course, this is ridiculous, but it makes one wonder while the film tiptoes and dabbles in several instances of casual racism, it goes hardest on people of Asian descent. The film goes so far as to employ the slur "chinaman" to describe a character. What does that say about the film if it singles out one race amongst the diversity of the cast to demonize and patronize?
It's very clear to me that the statement I am about to write is ironic given the title of the film is The Gentlemen. Yet, there is only one woman with an actual personality or any kind of character traits in this film. The rest are background, an unfortunate plot point, or a probable beard, which we'll get to soon. Michelle Dockery is a good actress, but here she's given one good scene. The rest of the time she's meant to remind us how fuckable she is and how we all want a "strong" woman we men can undermine because we are above her. Even her one good scene ends with her attempted rape. Seriously, she's proven how strong she is and then she's bent over a desk against her will. It's fucking pathetic to have put anything like that in the film especially as the motives of the person who is going to rape her would only ever suggest he kills her when he has the chance. It's an infuriating sequence.
Not more infuriating as a whole than the ugly homophobia throughout. Hugh Grant's character is constantly making advances to Charlie Hunnam's character, or any male character. He's the ugliest stereotype of a "predatory gay." I'm surprised he wasn't forced to lisp and have a limp wrist to mix in with his advances. Speaking to that, while he has a wife, Jeremy Strong's character is also painted so effeminately he's practically mincing in every scene and has a weird chemistry with Matthew McConaughey. That chemistry is so off putting I would assume, if I wre not watching a very heteronormative focused film, that the two of them were having an affair. It's a bizarre choice and lends to the homophobia of it all.
Does this film have any redeeming qualities? Some lines are particularly funny and Colin Farrell is also, always a delight as an in control, but also unhinged character. Guy Ritchie's strength has always been in his dark sense of humor and witty, literati mobsters. I'd say my favorite actor, though, was Henry Golding. Here he's getting to play against type as an antagonist. He's got more range than he's shown in the rom-coms he's been in and shows how to unleash the power simmering under his great performance in A Simple Favor.
The Gentlemen as a cockney farce works, but only if you forget the progress society and cinema have made in the 20 years since Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels blew American teenage boys minds with its inventiveness and hard to understand, but undeniably cool dialogue. This is definitely a throwback I'd like to throw back across the pond. Skip this one, there's going to be something better on streaming.