There's an odd (and fun) sense of formality to The Gentlemen, director Guy Ritchie's newest crime flick that trades the downtrodden, violent British grit of his former films (like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) for a classier vibe—that's still violently gritty.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Mickey Pearson, a British (by-way-of-Texas) drug lord who's trying to get out of the game and sell his successful and highly secretive cannabis growing business to a rich cohort. Trouble arises when less-scrupulous competitors begin taking Pearson's business down from the inside; it's a twisty, deadly scheme that puts Pearson, his steely wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), and his trusted assistant Ray (Charlie Hunnam) in all sorts of danger.
If you aren't fluent in a variety of thick British dialects, The Gentlemen may have you wishing for subtitles—but eventually your ear will adjust and you'll fall in love with the lilting wit of the script, especially when it's delivered by Hugh Grant (as the deviously mischievous private detective Fletcher), who narrates the story as he's trying to shake down Mickey and Ray. In case you haven't realized it, Hugh Grant is England's greatest treasure, and as Americans, we should and will remain eternally envious. In this role, Grant is quick-witted, sexy, insecure, desperate, egotistical, and outright slimy—sometimes all at once. He's worth the price of admission alone.
Happily, there are some other standout performances, too, especially from Colin Farrell, whose "Coach" is a case study in unflappable hilarity as he's dragged into this untenable situation, eventually turning out to be instrumental to its success. And I'm sure you've heard this song before, but it's a goddamn shame that the one juicy role for a woman in this film is barely there at all—but when Dockery flexes her acting muscles, she steals every scene she's in. (Note to screenwriters: If a woman is critical to the entire theme of the movie, it's worth considering giving her more than 10 lines.)
McConaughey is, as usual, McConaughey (that's a good thing), and even Charlie "Box Office Poison" Hunnam (who is the least interesting presence in the film, yet gets the lion's share of scenes) is... okay? Both roles could've been inhabited by better, more charismatic leads, but in any case, The Gentlemen is a fun, twisty-turny joyride through Britain's well-heeled drug trade, and its moments of shocking, often comical violence should pair nicely with a snifter of good cognac.
The Gentlemen is now playing at various theaters.