It occurs that I haven’t used the word “Byzantine” in a movie review yet. This is a great opportunity to make me look much fancier than I really am. You know, kinda like I have a pipe, a smoking jacket, and bushy sideburns. But not like Sherlock Holmes. Anyway. Ritchie–who also writes and produces–constructs a Byzantine plot of backroom dealings, double-crosses, and half-heard rumors. Part of the challenge is just keeping up with all the sketchy shenanigans.
The story revolves Mickey Pearson, a cannabis kingpin (Matthew McConaughey) and his attempt to do what no one with his lifestyle can ever do in the movies: Retire. He readies his empire for a fire sale, prompting a well-heeled cadre of scavengers to come circling. Dry Eye (Henry Golding) is an ambitious lieutenant in the Chinese mafia who wants Mickey’s millions to make a power play within his own organization. Matthew (Jeremy Strong), an American billionaire, might be the most lucrative partner, but his Machiavellian stoicism also renders him the most dangerous. Coach (Colin Farrell) runs a gym for ultimate fighters, and he deploys them like his own little Yakuza army. Finally, a wily gossipmonger (Hugh Grant) works in the shadows, desperately trying to play everybody against each other. That goes especially for Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey’s steady right hand.
There–I’m afraid that’s all the plot you get. These erudite miscreants proceed to plot and plan against each other for all the proverbial weed brownies. Beatings get handed out. Bodies go thud on the pavement. Rhyming slang flows like warm Guinness from the tap. Like most of Ritchie’s movies, you’re either down with the sickness or you’re not.
One thing’s for sure: The entire cast is ready to party. McConaughey nails it as a suave, well-tailored killer. Think Walter White as James Bond, driving a Lincoln SUV. Hunnam does great work as the lightning rod–the ground for all the pulsating current around him. Grant plays against type as a gregarious toadie, one whose incessant blathering will either make him millions or seal his doom. Golding, who’s made a nice living as a hunky leading man, gets to show off his range as an overly ambitious underboss.
The Gentlemen will insist you keep up with all its machinations, all while checking the rest of your brain at the door. Now that I’ve written that sentence, it kinda feels like one of those M.C. Escher sketches. You know, where the guy walks up and down the steps at the same time. Ah hell, whatever. Between raising our newborn and this batshit plague that’s sweeping the globe, I’ve been cooped up for 10 weeks now. That puts me about one step away from talking to a volleyball. I don’t know much, but this quarantine feels like a time for guilty pleasures: Trashy mags, junk food, and movies like The Gentlemen are just the indulgences we need to sustain our sanity during this collective isolation.
113 min. R.
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