Arts

Guy Ritchies' The Gentlemen recycles the dodgy geezers and expletive-laden double-dealing of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

Michelle Dockery as Rosalind and Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Pearson in The Gentlemen
Damon Smith

AFTER the quick-stepping theatricality of a live-action Aladdin replete with Will Smith's motion-captured genie, Guy Ritchie returns to the crime-riddled streets of London and filmmaking home comforts.

The dodgy geezers and expletive-laden double-dealing of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, which saddled the writer-director as a one-trick pony more than 20 years ago, are enthusiastically rehashed and recycled in The Gentlemen.

The budget of this slickly orchestrated caper is bigger than Ritchie's 1998 calling card, including a leading role for Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey, but the macho posturing, snappy dialogue and stylistic quirks are disappointingly familiar including a point-of-view shot from inside a car boot.

The film opens with McConaughey's dapper protagonist striding into a pub and politely demanding "a pint and a pickled egg," which cajoles the barman to pour a beer from a pump shamelessly adorned with the logo of the Gritchie Brewing Company.

Blood starts flowing before the vinegar-saturated bar snack has been consumed and a motley crew of misguided characters have started a lively game of dialogue pass the parcel, tossing profanities back and forth as nouns, verbs and adverbs because swearing is big, clever and achingly cool.

Ritchie uses a simple framing device.

He feeds us morsels of his predictable story in fragmented flashbacks, as told by an odious private detective named Fletcher (Hugh Grant), who wants a hefty £20 million pay-off for incriminating photographs and documentation of Mickey Pearson (McConaughey).

The American ex-pat has built a lucrative marijuana empire in the capital aided by right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam).

Mickey is poised to sell the business to slippery American counterpart, Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong), and share the spoils with his straight-shooting wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery).

Unfortunately, trigger-happy rival Dry Eye (Henry Golding) intends to scupper the deal, lighting a fuse on a bloodthirsty turf war that will make lip-smacking headlines for sleazy tabloid Daily Print edited by Big Dave (Eddie Marsan).

Adding fuel to the fire, rap-loving protegees of a local boxing coach (Colin Farrell) unwittingly steal from one of Mickey's farms and record their hare-brained antics on their YouTube channel.

The Gentlemen swaggers and growls in ways we have come to expect from Ritchie.

Kinks in a predictable plot are clearly telegraphed through self-consciously quickfire dialogue.

Some of the cast are poorly served by the script but McConaughey's natural charisma elevates his self-anointed "king of the jungle" and Grant enlivens scenes with impeccable comic timing.

Only one potty-mouthed outburst lands a decent laugh – a pithy aside gifted to Downton Abbey star Dockery, who reverts to her native Essex accent to play a ballsy spouse, whose words are almost as sharp as her designer heels.

Tellingly, she has to rely on a man to get her out of a potentially lethal jam.

Time's up, The Gentlemen, please.

5/10

THE GENTLEMEN (18, 113 mins) Thriller/Comedy/Drama/Romance. Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan. Director: Guy Ritchie

Released January 1

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Arts