Class meets crass in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. This film goes down like a good bourbon: smooth, expensive-feeling, and when it burns, it burns good. It’s refined but feels a little dirty, like taking a joyride in a Porsche. In terms of a cinematic escape, The Gentlemen delivers!
Writer and director Guy Ritchie sits in the driver’s seat of this dashing little number. The only thing more electric than Ritchie’s script is the leading performances from Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, and Hugh Grant. Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, and Henry Golding finish out one of the most stacked supporting casts in recent memory.
In The Gentlemen, a British drug lord (played by McConaughey) tries to sell off his highly profitable empire and retire in the lap of luxury. Once the word is out that the kingpin is on his way out, a host of wild characters come out of the woodwork angling for a slice of that pie. Add in a persistent journalist and a tangled web of betrayal and you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Right out the gate, so that we’re all aware, The Gentlemen is filthy. It’s vulgar. It’s offensive. It’s problematic. If there is a group to be offended, that joke is worked in there. If there is a rough word that singes your ears to hear it, it’s sprinkled in the dialogue. This film is rough.
That being said, it’s the kind of off-colour that really and truly works. It’s evenhandedly offensive, to the point that you can forgive (or, at least, abide) how problematic some elements are. Through every cringe comes genuine laughter. It’s the sort of film that thrives in the uncomfortable and drags its audience down to play in the filth. Which, oddly enough, makes for a refreshing film experience.
In every respect, The Gentlemen is the ultimate hyper-masculine fantasy. It’s a world of custom suits and bloodied-knuckle brawls. The women are beautiful, the cars are fast, and the stakes are high. Guy Ritchie marries the sophistication of Bond with the grit of John Wayne and it’s absolutely fabulous. The film’s twisted sense of humour makes each of the characters equal parts despicable and aspirational. The Gentlemen is a bro-filled ballet of the grandest kind.
Beyond the fantasy that it creates, The Gentlemen is an absolute feast for the eyes. Every frame of the film just drips in smooth, effortless style. Truly, the wardrobe work shown in The Gentlemen will make a strong impression sure to last the rest of the year. It’s a damn good looking film.
Of course, the outrageous swagger of The Gentlemen is only possible due to the efforts of its damn near perfect cast. Grant, McConaughey, and Hunnam are the heavy hitters of the film, delivering on-point performances. Hunnam especially shines in a role that allows him to play in the tiniest subtle details as well as over the top scenarios. Colin Farrell steals every scene he’s in with a performance that is just bizarre, but in the best way possible. In many ways, every character in The Gentlemen contains multitudes which allows for each performer to show the full extent of their range. Well carried.
Perhaps, it is a stretch to say that The Gentlemen is making any sort of strides in class commentary but the storytelling does make an interesting observation. For the whole of the film, the viewer gets a feeling that I can only describe as being in a pot that is simmering. In every moment of the film, a character or a situation is mere moments away from boiling over into rage or chaos. The placid surface is deceptive and unsettling, because who knows what’s going to take the film from simmering to roiling cauldron? It’s an absolutely delicious tension that holds through the entire piece.
This simmering pot analogy lends itself to the potential critique hidden in The Gentlemen. Our rough and wicked characters are all hiding in plain sight within polite society. They conceal their coarseness in perfectly tailored suits and genteel manners at fancy parties. But the trappings of wealth and success are only that simmering façade. Deep down, under all that pretty polish, is the brutal truth. I suppose it is up to the audience to take from that what they will.
The Gentlemen is far from perfect and I can almost guarantee that it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. That being said, it very well may be a much-needed shot of tequila. The Gentlemen is loads of fun and invites you to break free from the shackles of your own decency for a little while.
The Gentlemen is out in cinemas now
by Cait Kennedy
Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Shuffle Online, and many others. Follow her on Twitter at @CaitDoes