One of my favorite films of the 1990s is “The Usual Suspects,” arguably one of the most polarizing movies of the decade, because no one completely understands it after a single viewing. There are misdirects from start to finish and an ending that makes the viewer question everything seen on screen from the preceding two hours. It’s an undeniably complicated film to follow, but the performances and the script somehow work in a way that makes the film’s central question better than any clear and straight answer.
“The Gentlemen” feels like a movie that wants to be “The Usual Suspects.” It has a great cast of characters and the actors playing these characters are giving the roles everything they’ve got. The characters are just weird enough to be memorable, but played straight enough to make sense to the audience.
However, much like “The Usual Suspects,” I sincerely doubt that anyone completely understands the plot of “The Gentlemen” after watching it for the first time. While the oddities of these characters are this movie’s greatest strength, the combinatorial effect of such strangeness in character and writing is an extremely convoluted plot and a film that is downright confusing.
The majority of the story is told from the perspective of Fletcher (Hugh Grant), whom most audiences will struggle to place in the plot for the majority of the running time. Freed from the string of mediocre romantic comedies that came to define his career in the mid-2000s, this is Grant’s best role in years. He has some of the best dialogue in a role that is both mysterious and hilarious. If this film gets a sequel (as it very loudly yearns to do), Fletcher will undoubtedly be a fan favorite.
At the center of the story being told by Fletcher is Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), a sort of American-British transplant “Heisenberg” of cannabis. Like Grant, McConaughey’s days of romantic comedies are long behind him and he shines in the role as a mostly calm, but occasionally violent kingpin whose empire is threatened by the likes of such odd characters as Dry Eye (Henry Golding), Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) and Coach (Colin Farrell).
Alongside McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam stars as Raymond, Mickey’s second in command who does most of the muscle work for his boss and proves, yet again, that he is a great action lead. Former “Downton Abbey” star Michelle Dockery is also perfectly cast as Rosalind Pearson, Mickey’s wife and a force to be reckoned with when given only a “paperweight” to defend herself.
This film’s best successes come from an endlessly enjoyable cast of characters who constantly deliver quirky, yet somehow pitch-perfect dialogue. While the expletive-laden dialogue will not amuse anyone insulted by the smallest amount of swearing – this may very well set the record for the most uses of the c-word in a motion picture – it perfectly captures the type of strange, criminal world Guy Ritchie is so well known for creating.
Brandon’s Verdict: If you’re hungry for an original script, free of any obvious universe-building franchise, this is a movie worth seeing. The plot of this film is jumbled at times by the many layers of unreliable narrators, but it’s well-written enough to be enjoyable. It’s not the best movie about quirky criminals ever made, but it’s one I wouldn’t mind watching again.