Entertainment

Guy Ritchie Wastes a Killer Cast on His Latest Crime Comedy 'The Gentlemen'

STX Entertainment

There's a new January tradition, two years in the running, that puts Matthew McConaughey and "number one boy" Jeremy Strong together in a movie that's absolute trash. Strong will wear glasses for the occasion. McConaughey will likely play a character with a very McConaughey-y name. Last year, the movie was Serenity, a truly baffling endeavor from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. This year, it's Guy Ritchie's The Gentlemen. But while Serenity is at least a so-bad-it's-good near-masterpiece of insanity, The Gentlemen is just a bad, boring, and unforgivably racist slog.

I can't say I wasn't just a teensy bit excited to see Ritchie return to the underworld of London following his hard swerve into "live action Aladdin remake," but this, as the kids say, is not it. The convoluted plot centers on McConaughey's Mickey Pearson, an American Rhodes Scholar who ditches Oxford when he realizes he can sell weed to his posh British classmates. By the time the narrative begins, he's become a kingpin and is trying to get out of the business, and attempts to offload his operation to Strong's effete Matthew. Meanwhile, Dry Eye, a gangster played by Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding, is also making a play for dominance in the drug business.

All of this, by the way, is relayed by Hugh Grant, doing a Michael Caine voice, as Fletcher, a private investigator who is trying to blackmail Mickey's associate Ray (Charlie Hunnam). Fletcher's narration allows Ritchie to throw in some homophobic gay panic as Fletcher seemingly comes on to Ray and some miserable racism like when he refers to Dry Eye as "License to Kill" but substitutes the "l" in "license" with an "r." The repeated, unrepentant, and repugnant jokes at the expense of Asian people in this movie seem like they're excavated from some lame '80s open mic set.

jeremy strong
STX Entertainment

It's not that the ensemble Ritchie has assembled isn't impressive. It is. I haven't even gotten to Colin Farrell, playing a boxer who's also a gangster, or Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery, who plays Mickey's Cockney-accented wife. (Put her in My Fair Lady.) Everyone is trying to do a lot, none more so than Strong, who has made a choice, even if I'm not sure what that choice is exactly, with the unspecific sing-song voice and cheeky monotone he adopts here.

For all of the wacky over-the-top performances, I mostly found myself struggling to keep my eyes open during The Gentlemen, since all of the cursing and the fighting and the vomit (yes, there is vomit) amount to a whopping "WHO CARES?" By the time Ritchie himself shows up in a self-congratulatory cameo -- you see, Fletcher is trying to pitch all of this as a movie, isn't that clever? -- I wanted to throw my hands up.

At least in Serenity the twist is so crazy it almost makes your head hurt. The Gentlemen is just about a couple of dudes (McConaughey and Hunnam) getting over on all their enemies, with a little bit of "look how aware we are of gangster movie tropes" meta commentary thrown in. By the time the credits rolled, I was exhausted from the insistent stereotyping, the casual deployment of attempted rape as a plot point, and the pointlessness of it all.

It's a movie about Matthew McConaughey and weed and yet it's somehow dreadful. (Watch The Beach Bum instead!) We here at Thrillist Entertainment love McConaughey, from the weird character names to the way he says "bourbon." We also love Jeremy Strong. Succession is great! But, man, when they get together, disaster is bound to strike. We're now just waiting to see what trash they will produce next January.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.