After some fun deviations from the path, The Gentlemen sees Guy Ritchie return to home turf: posturing gangsters doing gangster shit. There’s a great deal of pleasure to be had in watching a cast of some of Hollywood’s most capable actors – plus Charlie Hunnam – sink their teeth into Ritchie’s almost-Shakespearean dialogue, all braggadocio and barely-implicit threats. Colin Farrell, as a well-intended but hard-edged boxing coach, was my personal highlight. The plot, a convoluted web centring on McConaughey’s character’s immense marijuana empire, is often delightful in its intricacy.
But The Gentlemen never quite reaches the heights of the likes of Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. In part, that’s because the plot – for all its complexities – has none of the juicy surprises lurking in those two films; there are some big swings here, but they’re not hard to see coming, which blunts much of the fun as the film progresses.
The other mark against the film is something that I might’ve missed in Ritchie’s earlier works – a subtle but undeniable streak of bigotry. Ever villain here is coded by their difference: Jeremy Strong’s Jewishness, Henry Golding’s Asianness, Hugh Grant’s implicit queerness. It’s not overbearing, but it’s hard to forgive.