Guy Ritchie understands what is needed to make a great movie. Coming into the scene as a young filmmaker he gave us Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but since debuting with greatness he has, unfortunately, yet to return. Revolver was a step forward artistically, albeit extremely difficult to follow. Sherlock Holmes proved Ritchie could turn a big budget into something, well, watchable and profitable. Most of Ritchie’s catalogue spans a spectrum as high as “pretty decent” to as low as “that was certainly a movie”. Ritchie’s newest blockbuster The Gentlemen gives hope that he can claw his way back to greatness.
The Gentlemen is a modern take on the growing marijuana industry in the UK. With a packed cast (Matthew McConaghey, Colin Farrell, Michelle Dockery, and Hugh Grant) Ritchie presents a modern world where drug dealers are as ingrained in high society as ever before. Part comedy and part action thriller, The Gentlemen is nothing if not entertaining. For every twist, another turn. For every gruesome fight scene, a quick laugh to take the edge off. I would say Ritchie’s style has become distinct. Almost a metric based approach to filmmaking.
With a cast of beautiful people, style comes to the forefront. In his earlier films, Ritchie stuck to streetwear and suits, easily distinguishing between the statuses of each character. What was quite obvious in A Man From U.N.C.L.E is even more so in The Gentlemen; fashion rules Richie’s inspiration. The outfits, the cars, the art on the walls, and the soundtrack are delicately curated and it truly helps the film blossom.
Another aspect of Ritchie’s style is the immersive editing he uses to transition from narrator to story and back. A zoomed-in shot, sharp filter, a clip of an old reel, and BAM we’re back to watching the narrator’s story in real time. It’s a masterful technique that he’s used a bit heavy handed in the past (Sherlock Holmes and Revolver), but it’s easily watchable for the viewer.
I almost feel Ritchie relies on these metrics too much. Like a fresh MBA grad will spout data as if he’s Gordon Gecko, Ritchie delivers important touch points he knows the audience will want. Two dashes of violence, a splash of style, a tablespoon of Tarantino, a surprising fetish for female car mechanics. I am not sure who he polled to get this recipe, but they forgot to mention the most important aspect of film, THE PLOT. That’s not to say The Gentlemen lacked a coherent plot line. Just that…it was fine. Just ok. A Man From U.N.C.L.E had a similar problem, though I rather enjoyed its soundtrack and style more.
If you just want to watch a “shoot em up” then, by all means, give The Gentlemen a shot. Hugh Grant is incredible. There is a bit of racism which I think was supposed to be comedic,but it didn’t land. It’s 2020, Guy, you’re better than that. I liked it. I’ll probably watch it again in a few years. Just don’t expect to be wowed by much.