Updated: Feb 14, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Matthew McConaughey plays American ex-pat Mickey Pearson, who runs a U.K. marijuana empire.
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4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for violence, language throughout, sexual references and drug content; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Nothing to see here—the quips, cannabis glossary, and behind the scenes featurette/glorified trailer are a waste of time.
THERE’S A LOT of talk about gentrification in Guy Ritchie’s return to crime comedy, but as another review put it, it’s Ritchie who’s become gentrified. All that big-studio money he got to make “Aladdin,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and the “Sherlock Holmes” reboots has taken the edge off the one-time enfant terrible of British moviemaking.
It’s not that “The Gentlemen” doesn’t have all the ingredients that fired up “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) or “Snatch” (2000). It does, it just never takes off, or gets down.
American ex-pat Mickey Pearson (Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”) went to the UK as a Rhodes Scholar and stayed to build a marijuana empire. He did it by funneling money to the “toffs” to use their spacious, high-maintenance estates, but now, with legalization on the horizon, he’s looking to cash out—to the tune of 400 million pounds.
(1) Mickey with his adored wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), a “Cockney Cleopatra.” (2) Hugh Grant is Fletcher, a professional snoop and would-be blackmailer who acts as a narrator of sorts for the story. (3) American billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) gets a tour of one of Mickey's underground farms. (4) Dry Eye (Henry Golding), a Chinese Cockney gangster, also has designs on Mickey's empire.
This being a Guy Ritchie caper, there’s lots of backstabbing and blackmail. Matthew (Jeremy Strong, “The Big Short”), an American Jewish billionaire, is interested, and he’s got a scheme to drive down the asking price. Dry Eye (Henry Golding, “Crazy Rich Asians”), a Chinese Cockney gangster, also has eyes on the operation—and his own scheme.
And Fletcher (Hugh Grant, “Notting Hill”) is angling for a piece of the pie, too. He’s a professional snoop who’s been hired by a tabloid publisher to get the goods on Mickey because he humiliated him at a party. Fletcher gets them, and goes to Mickey’s right-hand man, Ray (Charlie Hunnam, “Sons of Anarchy”): 20 million pounds and said goods are his.
So, why doesn’t “The Gentlemen” fly? Maybe because Ritchie’s back on familiar turf and seems to have hedged his bets. Maybe because it is familiar turf. Maybe because the homophobic, Jewish, Asian and racial slurs land with a thud or because the C-word gets old fast or because you can see the blood spilling a mile away.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to recommend this yarn. There’s serious fun to be had in watching Grant play against type as the smarmy Fletcher. Colin Farrell (“The Lobster”) is a hoot, too. He plays Coach, who repays Ray, and then some, after his lads bust up Mickey’s operation.
(1) Colin Farrell is a hoot as Coach, who cleans up for his lads when they bust into one of Mickey’s farms. (2) Lord George (Tom Wu) and his henchmen. (3) Sleazy newspaper editor Big Dave (Eddie Marsan) plans to rake Mickey over the coals. (4) You never know when a gold-plated paperweight will come in handy.
On the other hand, Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) is wasted as Mickey’s adored wife Rosalind, a “Cockney Cleopatra” who runs a garage staffed by female mechanics. Like their boss, they barely register.
But give Ritchie points for giving his script a neat twist: Fletcher, it turns out, has written a screenplay of his own that’s part of the package he offers to Ray. He narrates from it throughout the movie and even blocks the action, leaving it up to the viewer to decide what’s really happening and what’s being embellished.
The 4K and Blu-ray are both solid, sourced by 3.4K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio), and nicely mastered in 4K. The bonus resolution from the Ultra HD is obvious during wide shots from a meeting at Big Dave's tabloid office overlooking London and extreme close-ups, especially when mechanic Rodge lights up Mickey's latest product.
The HDR10 expansive toning provides full-dimensional blacks and a broad palette that shows off the handiwork of costume designer Michael Wilkinson. Credit cinematographer Alan Stewart, who worked with Ritchie on “Aladdin.” When he isn’t soaking up the English countryside, he reaches deep into a big bag of tricks to keep things moving.
Hats off to Universal for equipping the 4K UHD and 1080p Blu-rays with a lively Dolby Atmos audio mix. It’s spacious and intimate and the fight sequence with Coach’s lads rocks. Dialogue is always clear (tip: pay close attention to the accents) and the soundtrack sparkles with cuts by, for starters, The Pharcyde, Cream, Johnny Rivers, Roxy Music and The Jam.
Got some time to kill while you’re keeping your distance? Who doesn’t, right? “The Gentlemen” isn’t everything it should have been, but it’ll do.
— Craig Shapiro
(1) Rodge, the lone male mechanic at Rosalind's garage, gives Mickey's latest product a test drive. (2&3) Ray (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey’s right-hand man, gives a teenager two offers to hand over his phone. (4) One of Ray's assistants shakes down another teenager. (4) Ray's freezer doubles as a morgue for a Russian student whose father is ex-KGB.
(1) Dry Eye tells Lord George that there’s a new boss. (2) Rosalind finds herself in a tough spot. (3) Coach's teen MMA fighters show some firepower. (4) Fletcher sees a perfect ending to the story.