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Overall Rating
1.88

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap75%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Gentlemen, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Laddie Come Home."
1 stars

Although it is almost embarrassing to admit today, there was once a time when I might have referred to Guy Ritchie as an exciting filmmaker whose works I looked forward to with some degree of genuine anticipation. His 1998 debut “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” was a cheeky and audacious take on the modern British crime film that was clearly indebted to Tarantino, as was virtually every crime film from a new filmmaker at that time, but stood apart from most of those thanks to its cheeky humor of his screenplay, his undeniably striking visual style and, although perhaps not given its due at the time, the work of charismatic newcomer Jason Statham. His follow-up film, “Snatch” (2000), was basically a rehash of his previous worker, albeit on a scale large enough to bring in Brad Pitt for a supporting turn, but it was still entertaining enough to make you wonder what he might have to offer when he decided to spread his artistic wings and try something different. That, alas, was a misbegotten 2002 remake of “Swept Away” that saw him and then-wife Madonna making absolute hash of the Lina Wertmuller’s admittedly dubious take on what used to be called the battle of the sexes. As bad as that was on every conceivable level, it almost seemed plausible when compared to his next two films, “Revolver” (2005) and “Rocknrolla” (2008), increasingly convoluted attempts to return to his crime film glories (with the former throwing in bits of Kabbalah mysticism for good measure) that pleased absolutely no one. For the next decade or so, Ritchie elected to switch gears and become the guy behind a series of increasingly anonymous blockbusters that had little on their mind other than making tons of money while essentially narcotizing viewers in the process, eventually culminating in a live-action remake of “Aladdin” that made a ton of money (and, truth be told, was perhaps the least bad of the recent Disney remakes of their animated classics) but which is so far removed from having anything resembling a personal touch, even a cloddish one, that it might as well have been made by a computer.

Although the billion-dollar success of “Aladdin” clearly helped reestablish Ritchie’s commercial credibility, especially important after the worldwide failure of his already-forgotten “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (2017), even he must have realized that there was not a single thing about it than one could point to as being even remotely distinctive or personal. Now in a position once again where he could more or less make exactly the movie that he wanted to do, he has evidently decided to reestablish his bonafides by going back to the kind of flamboyant crime comedy hybrid that he started out doing. However, if the best he can do along those lines is “The Gentlemen,” then he should probably just spend the rest of his career hacking away for Disney because whatever the cinematic sins that were committed by “Aladdin” (whose biggest crime was that it was just kind of dull and unnecessary), they paled in comparison to what he has inflicted on moviegoers here. He is clearly trying to revive the lad-mag insouciance of his early works but doesn’t seem to realize that things have changed slightly in the past 22 years and that what once may have been considered to be cheeky and irreverent has now fully curdled into outright racism, sexism, homophobia and classism. This might have been intriguing if that was the point of the film but Ritchie seems to think that he is still the brash new kid new on the block instead of a older guy grasping at past glories because he has nothing else to say.

Matthew McConaughey, for reasons known only to him, stars as Mickey Pearson, an American trailer park refugee who went to England to study botany at Oxford but elected to use his knowledge to develop a massive weed empire that has managed to stay off the police radar while earning him hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Now rich beyond his wildest dreams and able to pass easily through the highest echelons of society (no pun intended), he has decided to finally get out of the game by selling his entire empire for a gargantuan sum and retiring to the life of a country gentleman with posh wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) at his side. Alas, his attempt to make a clean break from his past hits a roadblock when the sale of his empire sparks a war between lisping Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) and an upstart Chinese gangster known as Dry-Eye (Henry Golding). Mickey does his best to stay above the fray but his success along those lines can be measured from the fact that the film opens with Mickey stopping off at a pub for a pint and a pickled egg, only to apparently get a bullet in the head instead.

Of course, it would have been far too easily for Ritchie to present a story tracing Mickey’s attempts to get out of the pot business while trying to uncover who is trying to mess up his carefully laid plans in a straightforward and relatively unconvoluted manner. Instead, right after the opening scene where Mickey gets shot, we are introduced to Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleazy private eye working for a sleazier tabloid editor (Eddie Marsan) looking to bring down Mickey publicly in response to a personal sub at a party. After gathering loads of information by dubious means, Fletcher turns up on the doorstep of Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) with an offer to turn over all the information he has gathered on Mickey for the minor sum of 20 million pounds. He has even taken all of the evidence he has gathered and transformed it into a screenplay that he proceeds to read to Raymond over the course of the film, stopping for any number of self-satisfied diversions that grow increasingly annoying as things progress.

To put it simply, a concept that seems to have eluded Ritchie here, the meta-movie conceit is too complicated for its own good without adding anything of value to the proceedings. Quite honestly, it feels like an idea that Ritchie threw into the mix at the last second in order to make his shockingly thin narrative seem a little heftier. Say what you will about disasters like “Revolver” and “Rocknrolla”—and in those cases, the less is certainly the better—they at least had certain ambitions to them, even if Ritchie could not figure out how to make them come across in a coherent or entertaining manner. His work here, on the other hand, is so basic and familiar that the film feels at times like a deadpan, if weirdly overdue, spoof of Ritchie and the legion of imitators spawned by his success. The characters run the gamut from the thinly drawn to the practically nonexistent—Colin Farrell turns up for a few scenes here and while his performance is one of the more tolerable ones, it is undercut slightly by the fact that there is no real reason for his character to even be involved with the proceedings. There are stylistic flourishes aplenty but they also lack the snap and excitement of Ritchie’s early work—he seems to be including them now not because he is trying to say anything with them but because he assumes that such empty gestures are a necessary part of any Guy Ritchie joint.

The only thing about the film that comes as a surprise, albeit an unwelcome one, is how retrograde its attitudes are to anyone who is a rich, white and aggressively straight male of a certain age. In his earlier films, the focus was on brash young men trying to make a foothold for themselves by any means necessary and in the face of an establishment determined to keep them out. However, just as gentrification has begun to transform modern London, a topic that comes up more than once in the film, it seems to have creeped into Ritchie’s way of thinking as well. While he once might have told a story in which a character named Mickey would have been looked at as a punchline to be mocked by the younger characters, he is here presented as the epitome of calm, grace and wisdom and the younger generation consists of nothing but spoiled little shits who are too tacky and headstrong to appreciate the finesse and wisdom of their elders. This condescending attitude would be bad enough on its own but what makes it worse is how Ritchie expresses this attitude in a manner that is supposed to be cheerfully outrageous but consistently falls flat in spectacularly awful ways. For starters, the film is flat-out racist in the way that it handles the Dry Eye character, both in general terms (such as the not-so-subtle suggestion that American and British drug lords are more dignified and classy than Asian) and in startlingly specific ones (with one character literally saying that Dry Eye has a “riscence to kill”), that makes one long for the comparative dignity to be found in “Year of the Dragon.” This is so startling that some viewers may not even realize that the film is also sexist (the Dockery character exists only to serve as the object of a rape threat), homophobic (with Strong delivering his lines with a lisp that would be considered a little much in a revival of “La Cage Aux Folles) and classist (with Mickey acting as a sort of bizarro Robin Hood who takes from the poor (in this case, potheads buying his product) and giving to the rich (by spreading his money around to other wealthy landowners in order to satisfy his goals and allow them to continue their privileged way of life.). As a result, one could read the film as Ritchie’s trying to explain and justify his own descent into highly paid hackwork but to do that is to give him far more credit than he clearly deserves.

Not surprisingly, the performances are as all over the map as every other aspect of the film. McConaughey, whose largely inexplicable and fairly incoherent January dump project from last year, “Serenity,” at least had the advantage of being reasonably fun to watch, plods throughout the film in a zoned-out pseudo-Zen state that suggests that he is under the assumption that he is in a feature-length version of one of his car commercials. Dockery and Farrell acquit themselves slightly better but are stuck with such insignificant characters that you tend to forget that they are even in the film, no doubt to their relief. On the other end of the spectrum, Strong and Hunnam are both spectacularly bad in their turns while Golding displays none of the charisma or personality that he demonstrated in “Crazy Rich Asians” and “A Simple Favor.” As for Hugh Grant, his entire performance seems to be a private joke between him and Ritchie against the tabloid press that has hounded them both over the years. Vain, preening and unbearably smug (and seemingly involved in a lisp-off with Strong), Grant is the only person who actually seems to be having a good time and his performance is easily the most memorable aspect of the film. That said, I hasten to add that if you have time to watch only one film in which Grant plays an unabashed scoundrel, you should really make it “Paddington 2,” even if you have already seen it.

Dated and dull in equal measure, “The Gentlemen” finds Guy Ritchie in full get-off-my-lawn mode and the only thing that makes his archaic mindset and forced attempts at outrage (which also include such dubious elements as bestiality and an entire scene set in the offices of Miramax Films) from being completely repellent is that the entire enterprise is frankly too stupid to ever quite come across as being as offensive as it wants to be. Nevertheless, by the time it finally comes to its half-assed ending, most viewers will find themselves hoping that, much like his protagonist, Ritchie will just go back to peddling the lucrative and narcotizing junk that has been his bread and butter for the last decade--films that you could forget about entirely by the time you got to the theatre lobby--or so and stop trying to be a version of himself that he clearly does not recognize or understand anymore. Oh, and while he is at it, he should also learn that if you are going to make a joke about how boring Francis Coppola’s “The Conversation” is, as the Grant character does at one point, you should not do so in the context of a film that offers less entertainment than waiting for two solid hours for an actual screening of “The Conversation” to commence.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33397&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/24/20 11:47:47
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User Comments

2/07/20 Herald of the God Emperor Donald Trump is winning and libcuck Peter Sobcyznski can't stand it 5 stars
1/30/20 Patrick Well, Peter has his panties in a wad again. A very smart, funny, and entertaining movie. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Jan-2020 (R)
  DVD: 21-Apr-2020

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Jan-2020
  DVD: 21-Apr-2020




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