MOVIE REVIEW: Cockney crime caper should come with warning
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell
Running time: 113 minutes
Verdict: Cracker Cockney crime caper
Guy Ritchie is back on familiar turf with this sharply dressed crime caper, although it's been significantly gentrified in the intervening 20 years.
The Gentlemen tells the cleverly convoluted story of a debonair crime boss looking to divest himself of his illegal business empire - for a tidy profit - and the cut-throat rivals who go to extreme lengths to knock a bit off the price.
Mickey Pearson (a handsomely stubbled Matthew McConaughey) came up the hard way, but having served his brutal apprenticeship on the streets of London, the American expat can now afford the luxury of good manners.
Even his trusted standover man, Raymond (a cigar-chomping, fancy whiskey-drinking, wagyu beef-eating Charlie Hunnam), prefers reason to rough-handling, when given the opportunity.
At one point, the cardigan-wearing enforcer interrupts a particularly menacing situation to expound the relative merits of a toke and a chat to a bunch of surly junkies.
In this scene in particular, The Gentleman's debt to Quentin Tarantino is clear, but Ritchie has stolen rather than borrowed -- by applying his own, distinctive cultural perspective, and embracing the fact that such extended digressions are now part of the cinematic lexicon.
Having made his multi-million-dollar fortune out of marijuana, Pearson now regularly hobnobs with the cream of the British aristocracy, much to the ire of Eddy Marsan's vindictive British tabloid editor, who after being snubbed by the crime boss at a cocktail party, swears revenge.
Hugh Grant's deliciously oily, utterly unscrupulous hack is hired to deliver the front-page exposé, but when Fletcher uncovers the full extent of Pearson's operation, as well as a violent plan to double-cross him, he realises that he can make much more money by blackmailing his subject.
It's a scene-stealing, against type performance from the Notting Hill star, for which he adopts a strong cockney accent.
But Grant is very nearly upstaged by Colin Farrell's "Coach", a hard nut with a soft heart, who takes troubled youths off the streets and teaches them how to properly fend for themselves.
Dressed in loud, matching tracksuits, Coach is a more charitable and contemporary version of The Artful Dodger.
Michelle Dockery, best known as Downton Abbey's Lady Mary Crawley, also relishes the chance to rough things up a little as Pearson's street-smart missus.
A triumphant return to form for the director of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels that should probably come with a warning.
Ritchie plays fast and loose with political correctness in The Gentleman - the characters' casual racism is perhaps even more jarring than the violence.
Opens January 1