If you saw Guy Ritchie’s new film, The Gentlemen (2019), you may have found yourself thinking, “This feels like the fun crime films from Guy Ritchie’s early days…except…what’s he got against Asians?” In 2020, the level of simple jokes directed at the Asian characters in the film felt like someone had found this script in a time capsule from the late ‘90s. Outside of those moments, there is enough happening in this film to entertain and remind us why Ritchie is a director people used to admire.
The story in The Gentlemen is framed as a series of moments connected through a story that Fletcher (Hugh Grant), an investigator and a director/writer, is telling to Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), the assistant to Michael Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American who runs a major marijuana empire in London. Fletcher has information about Michael that he is either going to sell to a newspaper who has it out for Michael unless Raymond and the gang pay big to keep him quiet.
Grant and Colin Farrell are my absolute favorite parts of this film. Grant gets a bit more screen time than Farrell since he is the one telling the story that we are watching. I’ve been really feeling his last few performances, and there is no exception here. Farrell has been a favorite of mine since The Lobster (2015) sent me exploring his filmography a bit more. He is always great in these kinds of roles, and I loved him as Coach in Ritchie’s film. In fact, Coach and his fighters are probably my favorite part of this film, and it feels the most like characters that came out of Snatch (2000). Together, these two guys really made the film super fun.
There’s no shortage of talent in the cast with Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, and Henry Golding. However, it’s with Golding as Dry Eye and the rival gang he belongs to that the more problematic aspects of the film surface. In particular, Dry Eye’s bodyguard or assistant’s name, “Phuc” (Jason Wong), shows the level of poorly-aged joke that Ritchie is reaching for. There are a series of other stereotypes levied at the Asian characters in the film that just felt oddly out of place. The most jarring moment in the film comes from Dry Eye, as he makes a choice so dark late in the plot that feels so out of place when compared to the rest of this fun, which is a silly crime movie full of lovable oafs.
Despite these negatives, I found myself very much into The Gentlemen. Not that I’m willing to overlook the negatives, as I think they are glaring and make the movie feel like a relic instantly…nevertheless, this movie reminds us of why we fall for the marketing of a film if Guy Ritchie is attached to it. When he’s on point, his films work and are mostly an entertaining time at the cinema. The Gentlemen earns the Decent Watch rating.