The Gentleman

Ritchie revisits his roots

Britain’s Guy Ritchie burst on to the moviemaking scene with what amounted to his own jocularly menacing, fresh and funny subgenre — the stylish, loopy gangster action comedy. Hard to find anyone that didn’t have a good time at 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or its 2000 sequel, Snatch.

Then he married Madonna

The Material Girl, demonstrating a classic lack of self-awareness, even for her, thought it would be just a dandy idea for hubby to remake Lina Wertmuller’s 1974 Swept Away, with herself in the lead. The 2002 result garnered five Razzies and is now reportedly used by the CIA as an enhanced interrogation technique.

Ritchie dumped the diva in 2005 and has since been working as what I think they call a journeyman director, pumping out watchable but forgettable trifles like Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and, most recently (and regrettably) Aladdin.

The good news here is that with The Gentlemen, he’s returned to his roots. Sort of. The thin (and largely irrelevant) story has to do with an American expat (Matthew McConaughey) who has built a highly profitable marijuana empire in London deciding to cash out of the business, triggering several humorous plots to rip him off. The cast, which seems to be having a pretty good time (at least better than you), includes Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant (funny!) and Michelle Dockery.

The bad news is that, while this is passably diverting, it understandably falls short of the freshness and the spark that made the director’s original flicks so much fun. It’s like he’s dragging the old Ritchie formula of 20 years ago into the present without considering the societal changes we’ve been through. Sometimes it looks like he’s just shuffling around the oddball elements and hoping for the best. I thought it would be funnier. Time for Guy to move on. (113 min)

Japan release date May 7, 2021

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