"It's a Guy Ritchie movie," I said over the phone, "so it'll probably be a convoluted if mildly intriguing story set against a laundry list of gangster types and played out over a super-hip soundtrack of throwback bangers."
"Word," my friend said. "That sounds fine."
And fine it was, because The Gentlemen is exactly what you'd expect from the venerable British director as he returns to the organized crime genre—a steady stream of UK-based businesspeople who work in the business of drugs and shooting people and stuff. It's…fine. Yeah, it's fine.
We follow the quiet yet violent Mickey (Matthew McConaughey who seemingly treats this role with the same lifeless energy he affords his Lincoln commercials), a London-based, American-born crime boss—presumably because nobody wanted him to even take a crack at a British accent—who, after building a massive weed empire over a few decades, is ready to leave the game and spend more time with his wife (Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery).
He's even lined up a buyer in the form of American bazillionaire Matthew (Jeremy Strong of HBO's Succession, who seems to be trying out some kind of Truman Capote vibe but mostly fails and is awful), but when a ruthless Chinese up-and-comer who goes by Dry Eyes (Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding) pops in to try and buy the farm(s) at a lower price at the same time a tabloid boss decides to ruin Mickey for a perceived social snub, everything starts falling apart and people gots to get got.
Cue soulful bassline.
So, setting aside the needless premise that much of the story is related in flashbacks and didn't-really-happen vignettes as told by a smarmy PI (Hugh Grant) to Mickey's number one guy (Charlie Hunnam), The Gentlemen does find time to interject some mini-mystery and humor into its otherwise glum tale of drugs and crime and stuff. Colin Farrell practically saves the movie as a boxing coach mentor to a gaggle of social media-obsessed roustabouts who run afoul of Mickey, and Hunnam's buttoned-down murderer vibe definitely works. It's just that McConaughey really phones it in, and we can't say much more for Strong. Actually, at least McConaughey has a few brief moments of badass or charming; Strong just flounders among the more experienced and/or talented cast members. Golding, for example, makes for a fairly enjoyable villain—right up until the utterly needless sexual assault scene (can we just get these out of movies, already?) bookended with a bullet or two, and Dockery, who is criminally underutilized here, cuts out a notably interesting performance.
Still, much of The Gentlemen feels like a pubescent male power fantasy wherein badasses gleefully kill and make up weird business rules and the women around them grab their junk before disappearing until their next big plot device moment. Blah, blah, blah. But if you can shut off your brain and go into it knowing you'll see some guns and weed—and laugh at Farrell's honestly wonderful supporting role—you should be fine. Yeah, fine.
+Mindlessly enjoyable on some level, probably
-Sexual assault; sooooo dude-ish
Directed by Ritchie
With McConaughey, Dockery, Golding, Strong, Grant, Hunnam and Farrell
Violet Crown, Regal 14, R, 113 min.