MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘The Gentlemen’ takes Ritchie back to his roots

Matthew McConaughey and Charlie Hunnam in The Gentlemen / STX Films

Director Guy Ritchie enjoyed the greatest box-office success of his career with last spring’s live-action re-make of the Disney animated classic “Aladdin,” but if you didn’t read his name in the credits, there would have been no way you would have known the movie was a Guy Ritchie film.

No one can begrudge Ritchie from enjoying a Disney payday, and the movie was an enjoyable re-make, but it had none of the panache or flare of the films that made Ritchie one of the most stylish directors of his era.

However, with his latest production “The Gentlemen,” Ritchie returns to what he knows and does best — a snappy and flashy gangster comedy, filled with hilarious and profane dialogue that’s outlandish and repeatable, just not in mixed company.

The film features an excellent ensemble of actors playing memorable characters in a high stakes drug feud between a London-based pot lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) and a Chinese heroine operation ran by Lord George (Tom Wu) and his hot-headed second Dry Eye (Henry Golding).

Pearson is growing tired of the marijuana business and is seeking to sell it to an American, billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) who is working with Dry Eye in an attempt to devalue Pearson’s business to drive down his asking price.

Private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is investigating Pearson and his connection to British aristocracy for a London tabloid, and Pearson’s right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) and his men are are following Fletcher to find out what he is up to.

Colin Farrell and Charlie Hunnam in The Gentlemen / STX Films

The film features plenty of fast talking and hard-hitting violence, all played out with an uproarious tone that will remind Ritchie fans of his films “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

Ritchie allows all his stars to shine in the film with Grant coming off spectacularly, and Colin Farrell turning in a great performance as a boxing coach whose pupils get hilariously mixed up in the feud.

McConaughey plays a cool, but violent riff on his stereotypical stoner type that we’ve seen from him in several films dating back to “Dazed and Confused.” He also possesses great chemistry with Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” fame, who makes an impact as his wife Rosalind.

Golding also gets to cut loose as Wild Eye showing that he can play broader more than the good-looking stiff that we’ve seen in “Crazy Rich Asians,” “A Simple Favor,” and “Last Christmas.”

Hunnam under plays Raymond a bit, which is a nice contrast from the rest of the cast who seem to have a ball chewing up the scenery.

The film is funny, but perhaps too much of the humor relies on racial stereotypes that could leave some viewers more than a little bit uncomfortable. The film, though, is an equal-opportunity offender aiming its jokes at every race, ethnicity, creed, and religion that crops up in the film.

This isn’t the type of movie I’d recommend across the board because of its violence and the crude nature of its humor, but if you are a Guy Ritchie fan, then you’ll probably get a kick out of “The Gentlemen.”

(R) 1 hr. 53 min.
Grade: B-

New In Local Movie Theaters

  • The Turning(PG-13) 1 hr. 35 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills
  • The Gentlemen(R) 1 hr. 53 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne
  • The Last Full Measure(R) 1 hr. 50 min. (watch trailer)
    Playing at: Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hills

Classic Corner – Warlock

Richard Widmark and Dorothy Malone in Warlock / Twentieth Century Fox

The 1959 film “Warlock” — not to be confused with the 1989 horror movie of the same title about an angel gone rouge — is a complex Western, starring Henry Fonda as a Wyatt Earp-type lawman-for-hire, Anthony Quinn as his deceitful partner, and Richard Widmark as a deputy who gets caught in the crossfire.

The non-incorporated towns of Warlock hired Fonda’s character Clay Blaisedell to use his authoritarian methods to clean up the area that’s being plagued by the criminally inclined cowhands employed by the unscrupulous rancher Abe McQuown (Tom Drake) who terrorize the citizens every time they ride into town.

Blaisedell warns the committee that hires him that they will grow to detest his methods over time because it has happened everywhere he’s been employed to enforce his unyielding style of law enforcement.

With Blaisedell comes his best friend saloon owner Tom Morgan, who despite his clubbed foot, is just as fast on the draw as Blaisedell, and a good bit sneakier. They back each other down to the final bullet.

On his first weekend in town, Blaisedell’s speedy draw backs down McQuown’s antsy men, but the tango is just starting.

Widmark’s character Johnny Gannon steps away from McQuown’s gang and then accepts an appointment as the town’s deputy sheriff, putting him at odds with his brother and pals in the McQuown’s gang as well as with Blaisedell and Morgan.

When an old, spiteful love interest of Blaisedell’s Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone) comes to town, the stakes only get higher for Gannon, with whom she falls in love, and Blaisedell, who begins to court local beauty Jessie Marlow (Dolores Micheales).

The movie, directed by noir filmmaker Edward Dmytryk, is a compelling twist on the old white-hat, black-hat Westerns with most of the characters falling into the morally ambiguous slot.

Essentially, everyone is looking our for themselves and their own desires in the movie. Some are just more nefarious than the others. That makes for an excellent time as you wonder just whom you ought to be rooting for.

“Star Trek” fans will notice DeForest Kelly of Dr. McCoy fame instantly as McQuown’s lead cowboy. He gives a showy but fun supporting performance, highlighted by an early scene when he challenges Blaisedell.

The movie’s significant as one of Fonda’s first roles as a character who is less than a hero, and he gives a fine but cold performance. Quinn, too, is strong both in support of Fonda and when he faces him down in a showdown. Widmark is the movie’s conscience, and you can read the conflict on his face.

The film is certainly a foreshadowing of the more complex and morally complex Westerns that would dominated the genre less than a decade later.