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Film Review: The Gentlemen (2020)

WARNING: This is a heavy R-rated film that deals with the subject of marijuana and drug use. I am not commenting on the use of drugs, just reviewing the film at hand.

The Gentlemen (2020) is a gangster comedy that focuses on the drug industry and the importance of a power system. Directed by Guy Ritchie, this film stars Matthew McConaughy, Hugh Grant, Henry Golding and Michelle Dockery. When Mickey Pearson (McConaughy) wants to move on from the marijuana industry and sell his business, it leads to several other people plotting to try and get the best deal from him possible.

This film is told from a narrative of Fletcher (played by Hugh Grant) reading a movie script of the events that occurred. Not only does this allow for the story to feel more cinematic, presenting it in this format, but it allows the story to be told in a fun way. If the story was told as a plain story, it would be dry and boring, but the editing style and the voice-overs talking about the sequences on-screen help bring the film to life. It is also the sequences talking about the script and the Hollywood business that are the strongest, not only being consistent with the tone but also just being the most engaging.

Out of all of the characters in the film, it is the arc with Mickey Pearson and his wife, Rosalind (played by Michelle Dockery) that are the most well done. They are the only two characters that are fully fleshed out beyond a stereotype and have a solid conflict and resolution to their narrative. Both McConaughy and Dockery give fantastic performances in their roles and are the clear stand-outs in this film.

One major problem I had with this film was the heavy stereotyping that this story goes for. Henry Golding is a great actor, as he has proved in his previous works, but here he resorts to a typical Asian baddie with no character development or personality outside of the colour of his skin. I also found difficulty caring about Colin Farrell as the Coach and all of the kids that he was training. This felt so stereotypical to the culture of the rough London areas and I feel like these scenes did not come off the way they were intended to, as I had no idea what I was meant to feel about these characters and their arc.

There are some moments where the production design shines, such as the secret location of the marijuana facility. However, there are some places that look incredibly fake due to a mix of the production design and the cinematography. One example of this is the second sequence, in Raymond’s house. It took me a long time to invest in the scene purely because it looked too artificial and scripted. Whilst I appreciate the filmmaking references this film throws in, it should not be at a compromise of investing in the narrative.
The basic concept of the film, dealing with a drug dealer who wants to retire and leave the industry, is one that is strong on paper and could be developed into a strong story. However, the direction that this film goes into becomes more of a mystery involving some boring and forgettable villains instead of the drug industry or the life of the drug dealer. I think having more of a focus on that aspect would have helped create a stronger narrative, leading to me caring more about the story and the mysteries.
There were several sub-plots that this film had that made no sense story-wise to me and just felt like filler. I did not fully understand the plot of the journalist, and there is one sequence that reminds me of the plot of a Black Mirror episode that, whilst dark and disturbing, felt like it had no narrative purpose or payoff from it. There are several sequences that seem to be in for shock value rather than the overall narrative, and yet none of it truly shocked me or felt important.
This film had a strong narrative style and a bold story, but unfortunately the pieces never fit together. I was not sure if Guy Ritchie was going for a mix of dark and humourous tones or not, but the tone of the film never fully worked for me and I ended up not caring about a single character here. This is a film I would never go back and watch, and I cannot say I would recommend it to anyone else.

Have you had a chance to check out The Gentlemen yet? Did you enjoy it more than I did? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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