by Geoffrey Churchman
In some ways, Guy Ritchie is Britain’s answer to America’s Quentin Tarantino. Although he has directed a variety of movie types since his feature debut in 1998, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it’s the British gangster genre that he is renowned for.
This just released resumption of the theme, which he has directed and co-written, contains all that his fans will expect, and then some: larger than life characters, black humor, wry dialog, numerous plot threads that intersect and assist in each other’s outcomes and, naturally, plenty of guns. Given that gun laws are even more restrictive in Britain than they are now in Jacindaland, that adds to the illicit nature of the trade that all the lead characters are involved in. In fact, it is given an amusing sidebar of its own when the lead gangster is gifted a little gold pistol in a little case, so small it could pass for a cigarette lighter, but can actually shoot 2 small bullets, as the viewer gets to discover.
Ritchie’s writing is highly inventive with lots of plot elements which even include making movies — a brief wistful presentation of old style film, a movie script (later given in the movie to Miramax which is this movie’s actual production company), the up-to-date technology of DIY movies created with head cams and mobile phones, edited on laptops and posted to social media; and its use in blackmail porn, albeit here not what you think.
The cast of characters cover a full scope from now suave toffs (hence the title) with tainted pasts, the sleazy tabloid newspaper editor and equally sleazy private eye, the Asian crime gangs, impoverished youth petty street crims (many with dark faces), an Irishman and a few Russians.
The acting performances are just as strong as the writing, and that of Hugh Grant shows that his hitherto typecasting has been quite unjustified. Most characters are male, but the femme fatale, primarily the lead gangster’s wife, isn’t omitted. Apparently, Kate Beckinsale was cast for the role, but was replaced with Michelle Dockery (of Downton Abby and there is a dining room scene that wouldn’t be out of place in that).
The dialog includes frequent use of four letter words, as you might expect, but the range of accents they get given adds to the amusement.
The basis of the crooks’ empire is industrial scale marijuana (“Mary Jane”) production. Its possible future legalisation in Britain is actually a plot device, perhaps the only thing to be given serious contemplation. The movie ends with a strong indication that there will be a sequel, which will be eagerly awaited.
The Gentlemen is screening at the Shoreline cinema (its release date in America is 24 January).