Director Guy Ritchie had a few hits and a few misfires, but with "The Gentlemen" he shoots straight down the middle. This gangster caper, like many of his films, is a fast-talking, wicked prankster who wants a million things at once.


The fascinating and slightly confusing construction of this story within a story. Cunning tabloid journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant) narrates the "script" of the story. about the crimes of ruthless businessmen and drug dealers in the United States to his closest associate Ray (Charlie Hunnam) in order to extort $20 million from them. Be prepared to barely make sense of the exposition from the start, as Ritchie uses his signature fast-paced dialogue with quick cuts to the nuclear level. But as the story stretches its legs, it becomes clearer.


The Russian puppet story, combined with fast dialogue and editing, does a great job of hiding who is the hero and who is the villain. The shocking opening sequence with Mickey (Matthew McConaughey) seems to establish him as the worst of the worst. Indeed, in his own words, he is the king of the jungle. However, he wants to sell his multimillion-dollar underground weed scheme to the highest bidder so he can settle down with his wife Ros (Michelle Dockery).


When Fletcher tells his “script” It quickly becomes clear to Ray and the audience that he is an unreliable narrator. Many times, Mickey's extreme violence sequence will be played out only for a new sequence to take its place whenever Fletcher is called out due to its unreliability. Thus, the film shows its own medium. The insecurity comes from the hand that holds the pen or camera, not from the symbols themselves. It's a cheeky, funny meta-commentary that takes place within a larger gangster scheme.


The Gentlemen also goes to hilarious lengths to poke fun at British culture as a whole. The first tip is to get the two most famous "posh" ones to British actors Grant and Dockery adopt rougher Cockney accents and behavior for laughs. Even more interesting are Coach (Colin Farrell) and his gang of gym kids - all wearing variations of the same plaid tracksuit and trainers. It's a comedy of manners through voice and style, which is very difficult to pull off, but Richie pulls it off neatly.


The hardest thing to swallow is the occasional use of racial epithets and rape for laughs or drama in the story, with references that anyone could find problematic. The film clumsily tries to show the irony of racial tropes and racism in general. For example, an unreliable narrator must recount the truth about Dry-Eye (Henry Golding), given that he is not a kung fu guy as first shown, but rather a first-generation Brit and the son of a drug lord.


There is another scene between Coach and one of his guys in which Coach explains that a racial slur is not racism, but rather an endearment. This was followed by a child asking if Coach was a gypsy with tea leaves and a crystal ball, indicating the complexity of the "joke" at the expense of another race. The Ros scene at the end, and the consequences for Dry-Eye and Jewish businessman Matthew (Jeremy Strong), are questionable at best, and instead stigmatize the idea of a man of color getting involved with a white woman.


The Gentlemen continues to be a terrific vehicle for Hugh Grant to play. He always had a hopeless, reckless charm about his person. But here, Grant takes the quirky villainy that worked so well in Paddington 2 and elevates it to a more adult and brazen level. He tells a story and tells it with such smart bravado that you can't help but fall into it.


All in all, The Gentlemen is a Ritchie-certified film. There is funny humor and a stellar soundtrack, like in "The Man from the USA." Then there's the fast editing and dialogue that moves the ground out from under you like in King Arthur. It's an ambitious and risky mix, but with all the confidence in the world.