Guy Ritchie’s latest foray into mixing comedy and crime was a well-executed mess, clearly made by a man who thought he had a very clever and interesting script and cared about it enough to make it the way he wanted. But between the static and stereotyped characters and poor plot construction, I saw very little to make me want to recommend the film to anyone other than the biggest of Guy Ritchie fans. If you’re jonesing for a film that features pot, comedy, and action, watch Pineapple Express, which does literally everything better than The Gentlemen. If you just want a film packed with action sequences and funny lines, watch, well, any other action-comedy. The Gentlemen would probably be a controversial film if it wasn’t so bland and ineffective.
The “comedy” wasn’t terrible because it was offensive as much as because it was stale and unfunny. There were a number of times we were supposed to chuckle, I think, at Fletcher’s advances towards Raymond, and at an Asian person’s name. So many of the non-white characters were absurdly stereotyped, especially for a movie made today, and what were supposed to be fun or funny scenes just seemed tone deaf and stupid. The white guys weren’t saviors or angels or anything, but at least they varied in their motivations and presentation. It took until around 58 minutes into the film for me to find something genuinely humorous, and even that was more in a “ah, that’s funny” way than a laugh.
Like the dialogue, the filming style was overindulgent at times, and simply did nothing to improve the action the rest of the time. There is such little actual action filmed, I’ve never seen so much talking about action in a film that bills itself as an action movie. So many things failed to resolve on screen, and not in a tense, interesting way. Cinematographer Alan Stewart also worked with Ritchie on last year’s Aladdin and I had the same issues with that film as well.
Matthew McConaughey was lucky enough to play his Lincoln commercial character for a full film. Charlie Hunnam’s performance was the standout, as his character was the only one that seemed to genuinely react to what was happening in the story, as opposed to everyone else who the plot was just happening to. The most egregious example of this was Rosalind Pearson, who Dry Eye inconceivably decided to sexually assault. As mentioned earlier, Hugh Grant’s role was plagued with dumb gay jokes, which takes down an otherwise great performance. Everyone else’s character was too static to merit mention.
Granted, it made some sense why the plot seemed to be happening “to” the characters because it turned out to all be a pitch that some random PI somehow got with a major film company. Fletcher made reference to it as a screenplay multiple times, which completely ruined that twist. Ritchie similarly gave away other plot points before they actually happened, making the entire film feel very anticlimactic at almost every turn, and it all culminated in an ending that was incredibly weak and meaningless.
Apparently, Guy Ritchie said that The Gentlemen was going to be like his late 90s films, and he was not kidding. It felt like it could have been a script dug up from that period of filmmaking. A time when marijuana was seen as a controversial topic to delve into, when the most basic differences in people were seen as a mine for comedy. This film is guaranteed to be quickly forgotten.