Have you ever had that moment where someone is so excited to share some gnostic truth and as they expound whatever this newfound cleverness is, you force a smile as it’s something you’ve known for ages? That’s kind of the sensation that keeps on reappearing as you watch “The Gentlemen“, the newest entry in the dark-comedy crime world of writer/director Guy Ritchie. Yes, it’s a fun cast of characters doing the crime-boss dance around each other as they try to outmaneuver each other in the acquisition of a massive pot-growing and distribution operation. However never has there been a more concrete example of “telling rather than showing” (except for perhaps 2012’s “John Dies at the End“).
Here we have Hugh Grant as Fletcher, an investigative reporter who drops in to pay a visit to the pot-gang’s second in command, Raymond (played by “Sons of Anarchy’s” Charlie Hunnam). Fletcher’s been assigned by his newspaper editor to get all the dirt on Raymond’s boss Mickey (played by Matthew McConaughey). It seems he’s dug up a huge trove of the recent goings on between the gangs and is going to demand a huge bribe to buy his silence. Because of course, trying to blackmail gangsters always goes so well (they must have never seen “Suicide Kings”). So we then go into a frame story of all of the adventures leading up to the current confrontation with Raymond. Fletcher’s done up the story so well that along with the photos and notes he’s amassed, he’s also turned it into a screenplay (which he’ll also give them so they can turn it into a film). This is basically “Deathtrap” by way of Guy Ritchie.
The film has good production quality, and the cast is solid (and the often miscast Hunnam does a respectable performance himself). However it feels that with all of its Ritchie panache, that it somewhat drags (it’s not even two hours long, but you still find yourself checking the watch towards the end), and that you’re being led along by the nose by Fletcher and his story rather then having any chance to try to figure anything out by yourself. The other sensation is that you’ve gone to see what might have been a really good film, but you’ve already had it spoiled by your friend who saw it early and blabs out all the spoilers without having been asked, only at the end to pause and look apologetically at you and then say, “you don’t mind spoilers, right?”
In the end, it’s frustrating in that it could have been something really compelling in better hands. It’s not bad, you just leave with the feeling that there could have been so much more. If you’re a fan of darkly-comedic crime films (of course you are, if you’re reading this you’re already a Ritchie fan), you’ll probably have a fun enough time, especially if you’re using your AMC subscription to see it.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5