Film review: The Gentlemen (18)

The Gentlemen picture: Christopher Raphael

The Gentlemen picture: Christopher Raphael - Credit: Archant

Guy Ritchie’s latest London gangster movie isn’t as smart or witty as he thinks it is

The Gentlement Picture: Christopher Raphael

The Gentlement Picture: Christopher Raphael - Credit: Archant

The Gentlemen is a film that isn’t as smart or as witty as it thinks it is, about a bunch of gangsters who aren’t as smart or as witty as they think they are, written and directed by a man who could be smart and witty if only he didn’t think he was.

After last year’s Aladdin earned him admission to the exclusive club of directors of films that had made over a billion dollars at the box office, The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie’s return to the kind of garrulous, London set, gangster comedy-drama he made his name with.

It starts at a tremendous pace with an almost creepily charismatic McConaughey as a drug baron who is trying to get out of the business - and Hugh Grant’s pressed gutter newspaperman who is trying to blackmail him.

Initially, it looks as though it’s going to be a whirl of a good time.

Ritchie though has the curse of the gab: he hooks you in then talks you out of the deal. Whenever things threaten to get going, some puffed-up little windbag will turn up and bend your ear with their yap yap yap yap and you just want to put your foot through the screen.

If people in Guy Ritchie films spoke half as much, they’d be twice as entertaining.

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And it’s all front. The film is on a small scale but as overblown as any blockbuster. The numbers are too big, the talk is too long and the plot has so many reversals, so many Ta Da revelations that after a while it all goes for nothing.

The frustration is that as a writer Ritchie can hit upon a line of profane poetry and as a director his flashy little montages are often effective pieces of big-screen storytelling.

The big new innovation for this film is the use of the C-word, the Emmanuel Kant word. Every character uses it compulsively and Ritchie shows it off like it’s a new Stafford Terrier he’s bought, but doesn’t quite know how to control properly.

What Ritchie needs is someone to call him a Kant every time he overwrites, to slap him back into line when he overdoes it.

But he is a talented Kant and it’s a pity to see him waste it.

2/5 stars

Go to for a review of The Draughtsman’s Contract, streaming on BFI Player.