How Guy Ritchie Redefined the Gangster Movie
It's exciting when someone rewrites a genre we thought was set in stone. The gangster movie has always evolved, from the classic Warner Bros. movies about underworld figures, through films like GOODFELLAS and RESERVOIR DOGS, which injected new energy and chaos into the familiar genre. And then Guy Ritchie hit the scene.
The British filmmaker created a brand all his own. Ritchie specializes in funny, violent, broadly appealing tough guy gangster capers that move with the speed and energy of a boxer's flurry of punches. He began making movies during the halcyon days of independent cinema in the 1990s, convincing investors like future KINGSMAN director Matthew Vaughn and Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton to fund his rollicking crime comedy debut, LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS.
The director has been full throttle ever since, making movies with diverse inspiration and a common sense of manic energy, from SNATCH to the underrated KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD. Now STX's THE GENTLEMEN brings Ritchie full circle, back to the genre he loves best, full of cockney gangsters, stolen merchandise, and bad men doing worse things. Blimey!
Time to Watch the Trailer, Guv
[Image credit: STXfilms]
THE GENTLEMEN trailer operates in full Guy Ritchie mode. The footage is cut to emphasize energy and comedy, so it's difficult to tell exactly what the plot is. That said, you can certainly tell that Matthew McConaughey is an American drug kingpin in London and that there are a lot of shady characters in his orbit, all angling for his crop. Among them are questionable figures played by a whos-who of wonderful character actors, including Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant, Eddie Marsan, and Henry Golding.
How exactly that back-stabbing, double-crossing, dirty-dealing goes down is anybody's guess, but Ritchie has populated the movie with people who can inhabit these villainous roles with relish. Could you even tell that was Colin Farrell? The film looks effortlessly stylish, in a way that only Ritchie can pull off. You can practically smell the rich mahogany and oiled leather. And more importantly, this looks fun. Between Grant's exaggerated accent, Hunnam's exaggerated facial hair, and Farrell's overall approach, it just looks like an uproarious blast of a movie. And it'll undoubtedly be accompanied by a killer soundtrack too.
A Return to Form
For the past ten years, Ritchie has been exclusively making big-budget studio tentpoles. That started in 2009 with SHERLOCK HOLMES, starring Robert Downey Jr. That film allowed Ritchie to fold many of his favorite themes about masculinity and Britain, and visual motifs like super-stylized slow motion, into a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. That was followed by the sequel SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS, and the 2015 adaption of the beloved '60s spy series THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
Ritchie followed that film with 2017's underseen but wildly entertaining KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD. Sadly that film did not evolve into a series, but it set the stage for the director to score his biggest hit ever: This past summer's live-action remake of Disney's ALADDIN. While he shed many signature stylistic flourishes for the family film, the way he modernized a classic tale in galvanizing ways was pure Ritchie. Now, he's going back to where he began, with the story of a bunch of bad guys chasing other bad guys down rain-slicked alleyways. We wouldn't want it any other way.
The Next Step in an Evolution
Even though Ritchie's early films arrived just after Quentin Tarantino gave crime movies a shot in the arm, the British movie-maker quickly developed his own unique voice and style over the years. He uses music and comedy, freeze-frame images and conflicting perspectives to tell stories of simple capers that spin out into complex traps for people hoping to make a quick buck.
Even his early movies (and especially his sophomore feature, SNATCH) show a complexity and promise that no other crime films did in the wake of PULP FICTION. He continued to develop with efforts that followed, as 2005's REVOLVER added abstract, almost mystical elements inspired by Ritchie's own spiritual journey, while 2008's ROCKNROLLA saw him juggling even more characters and crisscrossing plotlines than before, with even more success.
Now, THE GENTLEMEN looks like the movie that will reclaim the gangster movie as Ritchie's own. Who else would be able to get this caliber of actor, not to mention so many of them, and weave together several narrative threads in elegant ways to deliver top-quality entertainment? Ritchies always strives to outdo what he did the last time around, but always with an eye on the ideal audience experience. His films may be cheeky, but Ritchie is the real deal. We can't wait for THE GENTLEMEN to arrive.
THE GENTLEMEN go to work on January 24!
All images courtesy of STXfilms.