‘The Gentlemen’, Another Ludicrous British Crime Cartoon From Guy Ritchie

Plus It’s Racist Against Chinese People!

I saw The Gentlemen movie. In this ludicrous British Crime Cartoon, director Guy Ritchie stuffs about 45 minutes worth of plot into a two-hour runtime using multiple narrative time streams and semi-clever devices. It turns what could have been a straightforward noir into a postmodern puzzlebox circus. For the first hour, a sleazy private investigator, played with scene-chewing gusto by Hugh Grant, narrates the story to Charlie Hunnam, displaying his usual range of two emotions. Then that narration ends but there are other narrations, and then we get back to Hugh Grant’s narration. Who, I wondered, is telling this story. And why?


THE GENTLEMEN ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Henry Golding, Colin Farrell, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong
Running time: 113 min


 

Matthew McConaughey, back in McConnaissance mode, plays an American drug dealer named Mickey. He’s a good drug dealer because he deals marijuana, which, he falsely claims, has never killed anyone. But the fact that he’s chosen to peddle “Bush” instead of heroin makes him a man of virtue in this version of London where no one ever takes the Tube and everyone lives in nice houses. He’s on the verge of selling his Bush Empire to a mincing billionaire sleazeball played by Jeremy Strong, Kendall Roy from HBO’s Succession. Apparently Hugh Grant has found out all about this by using the world’s most powerful spy camera, but many double-crosses await.

The Gentlemen is quite racist against Chinese people. Henry Golding, our Asian dreamboat of the moment, plays one of McConaughey’s antagonists, an aspiring drug lord named “Dry Eye.” He commits several brutal killings and attempts to rape McConaughey’s wife, played by Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. She’s one of the movie’s few female characters, but she does run a vintage car garage where all the employees are large-breasted female mechanics.

While women fix cars in this movie, Chinese people deal in heroin. They’re the evil tong compared with the good white weed dealers. Other than Dry Eye, a big Chinese boss named George spends most of his one scene with McConaughey spewing vomit because McConaughey has poisoned him. A character named “Phuc,” whose name sounds like you might imagine it sounds, appears briefly. That’s a Vietnamese name, broadening the scope of Guy Ritchie’s casual bigotry.  Colin Farrell, who plays a hip boxing trainer named Coach, has a lot of fun making fun of Phuc’s name, and then Phuc leaps off a bridge and a train runs him over, at which point I wondered what the Phuc was going on. See, it’s easy to be racist against Asian people!

It’s especially strange because The Gentlemen isn’t racist against Black people. McConaughey and Hunnam have a Black henchman named Bunny who has a semi-layered personality. And the Black British rapper Bugzy Malone plays one of Farrell’s boxers. He has a lot of charisma and even unloads an excellent rap during a raid on one of McConaughey’s pot warehouses, in the movie’s best scene.

 

Then there’s a sleazy tabloid newspaper editor played by Eddie Marsan, who gets his comeuppance in a manner that completely rips off the pilot episode of Black Mirror. But Ritchie plays it for disgusting laughs instead of making any kind of point about techno-dystopia. That level of big thinking is beyond his abilities anyway. He’s all about hip style, macho posturing, and opera-style violence that appears to have no lasting societal consequences. The Gentlemen live by the “law of the jungle,” baby. McConaughey is cool. McConaughey is into the weed. And McConaughey always wins. In that sense, maybe this movie is realistic after all.

This concludes my review of The Gentlemen movie.

Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of ten semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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