Run time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Stars: Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Strong
Director: Guy Ritchie
This propulsive crime comedy by Madonna's ex-husband Guy Ritchie, 51, won't be mistaken for Oscar bait — and that's a good thing. The career of star Matthew McConaughey, 50, has only just now recovered from the ego inflation that beset him following his best actor award for 2013's Dallas Buyers Club. Thank you, Guy, for letting McConaughey eat a bagel for this role — no more emaciated Matt, please.
As if steering a Lincoln Aviator, McConaughey glides through his part as Mickey Pearson, an American-born, Oxford-educated wheeler-dealer who begins his life of crime dealing drugs to the rich, elitist toffs at university.
When we meet him, he's wearing exquisite tweed, drinking fine scotch and wedded to the divine Rosalind (Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery). Pearson's in his prime, and he wants to get out while still at the top of his game. Unlike most of us, his game is cultivating ganja on cash-strapped country estates — if only Lady Mary had considered that solution to save the Abbey!
Prepared to sell out to the highest bidder, Pearson negotiates with billionaire businessman Matthew (Succession's Jeremy Strong). But breaking up with the weed business will prove hard to do — explosive even — with plots and counterplots and collateral damage galore.
These complications summon a pileup of typically lead actors in strong supporting roles. There's charisma to burn. The tasty Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) muscles in as Pearson's consigliere, Ray, who has lovely manners and a frozen corpse stowed in his freezer beside the Wagyu steaks. Hugh Grant, 59, plays against type as an oily blackmailer who's yearning to cash in on the illicit transaction.
Add Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as an ambitious criminal desperate to leap over his elders, a grizzled Colin Farrell as a reluctant ally, and piggy Eddie Marsan, 51, as a tabloid editor aching to topple Pearson and his crew — with disastrous results.
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Miramax/Entertainment Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo
The testosterone-heavy film doesn't depart from Sherlock Holmes director Ritchie's trademark lad-love. But this doesn't preclude a romp of a role for Dockery as the proprietor of a glam garage catering to female luxury car owners. Here, she's soigné and self-possessed. In a miniskirt, tights and boots, she's ever so much more devastating than J.Lo in a Givenchy gown that leaves nothing to the imagination.
Could there be a funky, modern Avengers reboot pairing Dockery, Ritchie and any of these gentlemen in the future? Please?!
As is the Ritchie way, the narrative is convoluted, the script serpentine, the movie references continual and the profanity endless. The use of the c-word (less inflammatory across the pond than in the U.S.) may set a new record. Falling somewhere on the continuum between The Expendables and Ocean's 11, The Gentlemen is a snappy action movie for grownups.