THE GENTLEMEN. Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, and Hugh Grant. Akso starring: HenryGolding, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Jeremy Strong, Jason Wong, Eddie Marsan, and Chris Evangelou. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Rated MA15+. Restricted. (Strong coarse language and violence). 113 min.
This British-American crime drama is based loosely on a story by Ivan Atkinson, Mary Davies, and Guy Ritchie, who is the Director of the movie. The film tells the story of a British drug lord - “the king of the jungle”, as the film says - who has established a highly lucrative marijuana empire.
The lead role is taken by Matthew McConaughey, who took out the Academy Award for Best Actor in the movie, “Dallas Buyers Club”, in 2014.
This is a crime movie that is heavy on plot complexity. An American expatriate, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) has built a highly successful drug empire in London, with the latest in technology to back it up, and he decides to retire to spend more time with the love of his life (Michelle Dockery). He is getting out, because “he came up the hard way, with blood on his hands”, and as the film progresses the viewer comes to appreciate where the blood was probably spilled. Mickey’s situation triggers an onrush of activity from a cartel of very wealthy drug-traffickers. Plots and schemes are immediately formulated by the rival drug lords, who are competing for a slice of the action, and who want to take over from, or take advantage of, Mickey’s decision.
An attempt is made at the start of the movie by Fletcher (Hugh Grant) to blackmail Mickey to steal his fiefdom from under him, and for a lot of the movie Fletcher reveals vital clues, and serves as something of an an unreliable narrator for the movie’s complex plot development. Fletcher delivers his clues to Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey’s no. 2 henchman, about what is happening. The viewer does not know for certain what is happening at all, and picks up the intricacies of the plot from Fletcher’s conversation, but also from Mickey’s fellow-warlords moving in for the taking, and for the occasional kill. The acting of McConaughey and Hunnam is impressive, but for Hugh Grant less so. Grant’s seductive asides struggle to maintain their point.
The plot-line quickly becomes immeshed in double-crosses, disloyalty, greed, and the race for big money. Surprise twists characterise the “winner takes all” mentality of the film as it develops - pushing warlord-greed to the fore. When all the deception is known, and the film comes tensely and tightly to its conclusion, the movie clearly emerges as a quirkily entertaining film that is smartly plotted, scripted, acted, and directed.
Because everyone wants to take advantage of Mickey’s situation, the film has gun fights galore with lots of blood spilt, and some gruesome scenes of bodies in ice-chests. The ensuing bedlam makes it uncertain who is the major villain among “The Gentlemen” of the film’s title, and one has to wait until the end of the film to find out who ends up being the final victor. However, the conclusion to the plot-development is worth the wait.
Most MA15+ movies are geared to adult and young adult viewing, but many of them also subtly market adolescents to look favourably, even enthusiastically, on the so-called pleasures of drug-taking. This movie, however, is unlikely to appeal to young adults or adolescents to take up drugs in the way the film portrays them. It is the warlike practices among drug sellers that is the real issue, and in this respect the film is actually an compelling deterrent for any form of modelling. The warlords’ practices are far too risky.
In this film, there is strong violence, rampant drug trafficking, and those in the film are highly adept at being extraordinarily mean and vindictive to others, regardless of past loyalties. Their meanness, however, is mostly targeted to each other, and this is not likely to be a film that would entice viewers to ever get in their way.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released January 1, 2020