‘The Gentleman’: A gangster drama with class to spare

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Guy Ritchie presents star-studded cast in a drama filled with action. / KCRW

There are certain things that audiences have come to expect when they see a film directed by Guy Ritchie; smart dialogue, unique action sequences and a healthy dose of British class. His new film, “The Gentlemen,” is no exception. 

Living up to its name, “The Gentlemen” is a film that bleeds style from start to finish. The story begins with private detective Fletcher (Hugh Grant) relaying the events of the past few days to a gangster named Ray (Charlie Hunnam). We learn through his tale that Ray works for one of the most powerful men in London, the weed kingpin Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), who is looking to get out of the business at the same time a young hotshot Dry Eye (Henry Golding) is looking to make a name for himself. What follows is a darkly comedic and wild ride through the oddly posh British underworld. 

The movie wastes no time in immersing you in the world that it has built. Powerhouse performances from McConaughey and Michelle Dockery make the characters feel believable and dynamic. Each character has their own part to play and it feels as though no role is wasted. 

But what is perhaps even better than the characters themselves is the way they play off each other. Any scene with Hunnam and Grant is brought to life by witty dialogue and excellent delivery. McConaughey’s role as Pearson is one of the best performances I’ve seen this year, playing the commanding and sharp mobster flawlessly. Even those with little screen time, like Matthew (Jeremy Strong), add just another layer of intrigue to an already riveting story. 

And while there is plenty of time to enjoy the film’s endlessly suave nature, that isn’t to say it’s afraid to indulge in some action. Through a mixture of tense gunplay and badass fistfights, the audience is kept on the edge of their seats just waiting to see what will happen next. Even with its R rating, the movie doesn’t feel the need to partake in excessive displays of violence, instead opting to have its more gruesome moments take place off screen.

Initially, it may be difficult to follow the plot of “The Gentlemen,” as the unconventional structure paired up with a lot of exposition being thrown forward early on can feel overwhelming, but things do slow down around the middle and provides time to digest the information.

With that being said, the plot is the movie’s strongest aspects. It succeeds at telling a complex story in a way that feels satisfying at the end while offering plenty of both comedy and action to keep audiences engaged along the way.  

One of my only complaints about the movie would be its unwillingness to explore its characters more thoroughly. While the star studded cast brings enough talent to make them all feel real, some opportunities to learn more about these characters were missed. The relationship between Pearson and Ray felt as though it suffered from this the most, with Ray being Pearson’s closest friend without any explanation of how the two became so close.

Still, the movie stands as one of the best of 2020 thus far. Director Ritchie served up exactly the kind of thing that fans were looking for. It is truly a story stuffed to its brim with class and action that at no point failed to keep me engaged. If more films like ‘The Gentlemen” are on their way this year, I can’t say I’d be disappointed. 

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