“If you wish to be the king of the jungle,” says Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), American boss of an illegal British cannabis empire, “it’s not enough to act like the king, you must be the king.” His words are on the soundtrack as Guy Ritchie’s ironically titled gangster comedy, “The Gentlemen,” begins. Pearson wants to retire from crime and hopes to sell his marijuana business to American billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) for $400 million. Other gangster-gentlemen, however, have other ideas and a crime war breaks out in which everyone plots against everyone else.
Do Chinese heroin dealers, Dry Eye and Lord George, in league with Matthew Berger, force Pearson to lower his price? Does sleazy private eye Fletcher find enough dirt about Pearson to satisfy “Big Dave,” whose cheesy tabloid The Daily Print will destroy Pearson’s gentlemanly public persona? Will you be able to follow these — and multiple other plotlines and characters — as Ritchie’s convoluted film unwinds? I couldn’t.
The large and talented cast work hard to keep us entertained. They’re led by Matthew McConaughey (kingpin Pearson), Hugh Grant (private detective Fletcher), Jeremy Strong (billionaire Berger), Charlie Hunnam (Pearson’s lieutenant Raymond), Tom Wu (drug lord George), Henry Golding (Dry Eye), Colin Farrell (street gangster “Coach”), and Michelle Dockery (Pearson’s wife Rosalind). They’re fun to watch, even if — like me — you’re not always sure who’s who. It’s a challenge, agrees critic Joe Morgenstern, “figuring out who’s doing what to whom and for what devious reasons.”
Others in the cast include Eddie Marsan as tabloid publisher “Big Dave,” Jason Wong as Phuc (Dry Eye’s henchman), and Eliot Sumner as Laura, heroin-addicted daughter of Lord Pressfield, played by Samuel West. Lyne Renee, Franz Drameh and Bugzy Malone are street-wise Jackie, Benny and Ernie.
“The Gentlemen” was directed and written by Guy Ritchie (story by Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies). It’s a movie inside a movie: Hugh Grant’s detective Fletcher narrates “The Gentlemen.” “I’ll tell you a story,” he says to Raymond as the film begins. His story is what we see on the screen which, unless Pearson buys his silence (and his screenplay) for $20 million, Fletcher will sell it to Miramax (an inside joke). Anything more about how the movie ends would be a spoiler. Morgenstern says you’ll forget anyway, once the lights go up.
Rated R for pervasive violence, language throughout, sexual references (including bestiality) and drug content, “The Gentlemen” runs 113 minutes.
Too many gangsters,
A convoluted plot —
“The Gentlemen” is
Sometimes fun, often not.