[Screen It]


(2020) (Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam) (R)

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Action/Crime Dramedy: An American expat must contend with the behavior of various criminal types when word gets out that his England-based pot empire is up for sale.
Over the past several decades, American expat Michael "Mickey" Pearson (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY) -- with the help of his equally ambitious wife, Rosalind (MICHELLE DOCKERY), and highly efficient right-hand man, Ray (CHARLIE HUNNAM) -- has created a highly lucrative pot empire throughout England, hiding it underground among the estates of cash-poor British royals.

But now he wants out of the business and is hoping to sell it to rival criminal kingpin Matthew Berger (JEREMY STRONG) for the tidy sum of four hundred million pounds. As the latter starts checking out the operations, word gets out about Mickey wanting to sell, drawing the attention of Asian drug kingpin Lord George (TOM WU) who's made his fortune selling coke and heroin and must contend his impatient protégé, Dry Eye (HENRY GOLDING).

At the same time, tabloid editor Big Dave (EDDIE MARSAN) has a bone to pick with Mickey for a prior snub and thus hires Fletcher (HUGH GRANT), a sleazy private detective, to dig up dirt on the pot kingpin. Looking to work both sides of that, he shows up at Ray's house with a blackmail offer he's sure can't be refused.

Things become more complicated when some young punks trained by Coach (COLIN FARRELL) decide to rob one of Mickey's plant-growing facilities and post their violent escapades online. All of which means what Mickey believed was going to be a quiet transaction has turned into an ever-growing mess, something he wants cleaned up as quickly as possible.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Like most people in many professions, I imagine TV and film directors end up bored and restless if they find themselves pigeonholed in just one genre or style of storytelling. That's why I imagine you see many different directors helming the various episodes of any given TV show rather than having the same person behind the camera(s) week in and week out.

While it's not exactly an apples to apples comparison since most movies don't end up having dozens, let alone hundreds of sequels featuring the same characters and general premise, I'm guessing that's why most big-screen directors jump around from project to project and, usually, genre to genre.

Take, for instance, Guy Ritchie. He figuratively and literally blasted onto the screen with his crime drama meet caper flicks including "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" and easily could have continued making the same sort of highly stylized films in that niche genre.

Instead, he branched out, resulting in some critical and artistic hits (such as "Sherlock Holmes" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") but also misses (including "Swept Away" and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword"). Amongst some of those, he jumped back into his earlier, familiar and presumably easier to make wheelhouse with "RocknRolla." And now after having just really stretched himself with the live-action version of "Aladdin" he returns to his old stomping grounds once again -- and for the first time in a decade -- with "The Gentlemen."

Having not seen those earlier flicks in decades, I can't really directly compare this one to them and say which one is best. But if you've sat through any of the aforementioned gangster offerings, this will be a fairly familiar and similar experience, with lots of stylized action, witty dialogue, a big cast and cool-meets-charismatic criminal characters.

The film begins with Matthew McConaughey's pot kingpin character sitting down for a pint and deviled egg in a British pub and delivering some brief voice-over wisdom about being the king of the jungle when it appears he's whacked from behind.

We then learn that this may -- or may not -- be part of a story told by a sleazy private detective (deliciously played against type by none other than Hugh Grant) to the kingpin's right-hand man (Charlie Hunnam) that may -- or again, may not -- be part of the screenplay he's just dropped on Ray's table.

It seems a tabloid editor (Eddie Marsan) with an ax to grind has paid Grant's Fletcher a large sum of money to dig up dirt on him. But being the opportunistic sort, he's offering the other side a blackmail fueled out for a substantially greater amount of moola. And all of that revolves around McConaughey's Mickey wanting to sell his pot empire to another criminal (Jeremy Strong) that results in other criminal types (including Henry Goulding's impulsive and hot-headed Dry Eye) wanting in on the bidding.

Things become more complicated when some young punks trained by a man known only as Coach (Colin Farrell) go behind his back, rob one of the underground pot plants and post "fight porn" footage of said robbery and related violence online. Throw in one of Mickey's business associate's daughters going missing and being involved in heroin and what initially seemed like an easy and quiet sale becomes increasingly messy and loud. All of which means Mickey and his associates need to take care of matters, and realizing we're watching Guy Ritchie back in his element, we know there's going to be lots of violence, comedy, twists and more.

While I found a few dull moments in the flick where things unexpectedly bogged down, for the most part I enjoyed the offering, especially once everything started to come together in Ritchie's purposefully convoluted screenplay. Is it the best such offering of this particular genre? No. But if you like these sorts of flicks and don't mind the decidedly R-rated material, will you have fun and maybe even a blast watching the chips fall where they may? Absolutely. And for that, "The Gentlemen" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed January 22, 2020 / Posted January 24, 2020

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