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Gentlemen (4K Ultra HD), The
British director Guy Ritchie has been a busy man over the last several years, churning out several big-budget films, including a live-action update of Disney's Aladdin, which I enjoyed; The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which made little impression despite an impressive cast; and the big ole unnecessary mess that is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Ritchie jumped on the scene around the new millennium and became known for his British action-crime comedies like Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but branched out with studio hit Sherlock Holmes a decade ago. I welcome a return to form, or at least a return to roots, for Ritchie, and The Gentlemen proves a very entertaining film that I have watched twice in the last 60 days, something I rarely do. Stocked with fine actors like Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell, The Gentlemen sees many deplorables make a play to buy a British marijuana empire, to violent and darkly humorous results.
Like Ritchie's earlier films, The Gentlemen breezes through its narrative, constantly moving from one bit to the next. Marijuana baron Mickey Pearson (McConaughey), an American transplant who learned the trade in college, looks to unload his business for $400 million and retire with his wife, Rosalind (Dockery). Pearson plans to sell the weed business to American billionaire Matthew Berger (Strong), but things get screwy when gangster Dry Eye (Henry Golding) makes a lousy counter-offer, which Pearson declines. Soon after, one of Pearson's grow houses is raided by a group of social media-conscious youths, who integrate footage of the theft into a rap video. The young men are also aspiring MMA fighters, and their coach (Farrell) is displeased at this revelation, especially because the marijuana belongs to Pearson. The proceedings get murkier as Dry Eye makes a play at Rosalind and Berger tells Pearson his empire is now 75 percent less valuable. Meanwhile, private investigator Fletcher (Grant) tries to blackmail Pearson by selling information on his dealings with a Royal Duke to Pearson's muscle Raymond (Hunnam), who is also tasked with mopping up all the shit being spilled across London in these dealings.
Ritchie also wrote the screenplay here, and the narrative is twisty. There are plenty of fake outs, red herrings and rewinds to keep the viewer guessing, but none of it feels forced. The Gentlemen has a great energy throughout, and the cast seems to be having a blast. Ritchie stocks the film with excellent soundtrack selections to accompany the action, including cuts by David Rawlings, Cream, Bugzy Malone, Roxy Music and Paul Jones, and Christopher Benstead's score is a nice compliment. As entertaining as the film is; it is equally demanding of the audience's attention. This is not a film to passively watch, as a brief glance away from the screen will result in missing crucial plot points. Grant's kooky P.I. serves as a narrator of sorts (more of a lamppost), and the film cuts back frequently to an extended evening between Grant and Raymond, who dutifully indulges the former's ramblings and supposed dish on Pearson.
This film is classic Ritchie in its hard-hitting, hand-to-hand combat; rapid pacing; circular narrative; dark humor; and stylish editing. Unlike in a couple of the director's lesser films, the style does not overwhelm the substance here, as I found the plot both interesting and substantial. The acting is great across the board, particularly from McConaughey, Grant, Hunnam, Dockery and Farrell, and it is nice to see these talented performers cut loose and completely dive into these characters. No one attempts to steal the show, and the result is that everyone steals the show. There are plenty of humorous asides - Grant is a riot - and The Gentlemen entertains as few recent films have done. This is an overall excellent diversion from the COVID-19 craziness outside, and the film offers surprising replay value.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
The film unspools with a 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 native 4K transfer with HDR10 that excels with gorgeously saturated colors, inky blacks, abundant shadow detail and top-notice clarity. Fine-object detail and texture are off the charts, and the entire presentation has a lovely, organic, three-dimensional appearance. The authentic costumes and set dressings are a highlight of this 4K presentation, and both skin tones and highlights remain authentic throughout. There are some uniquely lit shots in the grow houses that absolutely pop from the screen, and the image looks fantastic in motion. The HDR pass heightens the realistic color scheme and black-level impact, and this is overall a fine transfer.
The soundtrack goes boom in Dolby Atmos, which I sampled as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix. The action bits of the film absolutely slap, with gunfire, punches and squealing tires searing across the sound field and rumbling the subwoofer. Dialogue is crystal clear whether delivered directionally or from the center channel. The score and soundtrack selections are given plenty of room to breathe, and there are no issues with overcrowding or distortion. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray and, surprisingly, an iTunes-only HD digital copy. The discs are packed in a black 4K case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The only disappointing part of this package is the extras, which are complete fluff: You get Best Gentlemanly Quips (3:09/HD), a reel of the film's colorful dialogue; Glossary of Cannabis (0:46/HD), which simply lays title cards over scenes about marijuana; Behind the Scenes of The Gentlemen (1:36/HD), a wildly uninformative piece; and a Photo Gallery.
Guy Ritchie returns to his crime-comedy origins with The Gentlemen, a fast moving, action packed and often-funny adventure into the marijuana trade in Britain. The stellar cast is completely game for the material, and the 4K Ultra HD offers an excellent presentation of the film. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.