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Review: The Gentlemen is music to the ears… and eyes.

Director Guy Ritchie gets mixed reviews from critics. His career exploded in the 1990s with caper films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch (where he extracted a brilliant performance from Brad Pitt.) Then there is a middle period (in which he was consort to Madonna)  where Ritchie seems out of favor. Then he bounces back with the Sherlock Holmes series and last year he is generally said to have regained his stride completely with The Gentlemen. The film is a convoluted crime comedy around the character played by Matthew McConaughey. He is a sleazy American drug kingpin, operating a string of marijuana grow-ops on the estates of cash-poor British nobility He wants to cash in his business and retire with his wife, played by Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame, who in this case plays a sassy Cockney role. The outstanding performance of the film is delivered by Hugh Grant as a blackmailing scumbag, also a Cockney who essentially serves as a narrator throughout the movie. This role is arguably the best thing Grant has done, since he has entered the “mature” phase of his career. I’m not sure the plot needs much more description, hewing as it does, to Ritchie’s habit of creating chaotic story lines. The real joy of the movie is the dialogue and banter that goes on between all of the characters. I sometimes wonder if American critics completely understand all the subtleties of the way Brits talk, Ritchie’s movies are about talking. They are about witty banter and language with a bit of violence, sex and larceny thrown in. British audiences will understand better the incongruities of someone with a low accent using big words for instance, as many of Ritchie’s characters do. A large segment of the British population, not just Cockneys but certainly they, cannot pronounce the “th” sound. Instead speakers substitute F or V for the “th” sound. So you get “filf” for “filth,” Muvver and Bruvver” for family members. You get “Keef” for Keith as in Keith Richards. There’s is a ton of that sort of thing going on in this film. Viewers with young kids should be warned that the “C” word is thrown around liberally—but again with typical British perverseness is always used to refer to a male. The film did well at the box office and nothing restores a director’s reputation like hitting the jackpot. The Gentlemen is available on pay-per-view.

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