CRIME CULTURE: The Gentlemen. It’s shit and you know it is. But you can’t look away, writes mob film aficionado Gary Johnston.
Malcolm Muggeridge, a fossilised old media talking head in 1980’s Britain, once said of pornography: “How do I know it depraves and corrupts? It depraved and corrupted me“.
(Muggeridge incidentally, also described Monty Python’s Life of Brian as a “tenth-rate, miserable little film” despite not having seen it all, proving beyond doubt that whilst he might have had his finger on something, it certainly wasn’t on the contemporary cultural zeitgeist.)
More recently, Russell Brand, neither old nor fossilised but a proud, self-confessed onanist nonetheless, made the point that everyone who watches porn knows it’s an utterly worthless and unproductive use of their time.
And still they watch it.
The thing is, there’s more than one type of porn. There’s fight porn, drug porn, spy porn, crime porn and of course, porn porn.
Guy Ritchie, the English film director who, despite a relatively successful career, remains best known for once being married to Madonna, is your boy when it comes to these specific sub-genres.
Consider his oeuvre, if you will: Sherlock Holmes – crime porn. Snatch – fight porn. The Man from Uncle – spy porn. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – crime porn, fight porn and drug porn, plus a special mention for being particularly disagreeable due to the fact both Sting and Vinny Jones are in it.
Which bring us to The Gentlemen; primarily a drug porn film featuring amongst other things, more epithets for marijuana than you could swing a bong at.
‘Bush’, ‘Weed’, ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Skunk’ to name just a few, though my favourite was ‘White Widow’s Cheese, a notorious hybrid strain that Ritchie, who wrote the screenplay, obviously included for the purpose of establishing his essential MaryJane credentials.
The script goes like this: Hugh Grant is ‘Fletcher’ a nervy, campy journalist who discovers a deal whereby Matthew McConaughey’s drug lord’s mega pot empire is being sold off with a figure of 400 million pounds being the non-negotiable asking price.
Fletcher thus approaches McConaughey’s 2iC, played by Charlie Hunnam, to offer up all his information for a slice of the action. Otherwise he’ll hand over all his files to a sleazy (is there any other kind?) tabloid editor and the game will be well and truly, up.
And that’s pretty much it. Cue some double crossing, various cor blimey guv’nor characters entering and then leaving, some biff, a bit of gun fire, a lot of drugs and the sort of offensive racist, sexist and bigoted dialogue tacitly justified by the implied, smug message that it’s all just a larf, innit.
Grant, Colin Farrell and the ever-watchable Michelle Dockery lend their not inconsiderable talents to the mix, which is just as well because lesser performers would render the script even emptier than it already is, much of it seeming to be made on the spot, using a collection of clichés, MacGuffins and downright, let’s play it for laughs, dubious set-up and scenarios.
And rip offs. Or homages, take your pick. I spotted blatant referencing – i.e. copying – of, amongst other movies, Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II and the inestimable Long Good Friday as well as a scene that I’m sure I saw more recently in the American crimes series, Better Call Saul, which since it adds nothing to the narrative, can only have been included to show the – admittedly impressive – skills of Ritchie’s film editor.
The point is – this is porn. There are no naked bodies, but don’t fret, there are plenty of moral issues here absolutely stripped to the bone.
Female characters? Only one, and even though she has some decent throwaway lines, the ultimate patriarchy of the film’s message is clear and distinct – women need rescuing by, you guessed it, big hairy men.
(Or at any rate, Matthew McConaughey, whose dress sense suggests he’s actually playing the part of Ritchie himself, a wanna-be toff in Harris tweeds and Arran sweaters. Life imitating art imitating life. Well, not so much art as a kiddies scribble.)
‘The Gentlemen’ is the equivalent of a 2am post pub kebab or souvlaki: you know it’s bad for you and will be followed by morning guilt, but at the time, it satisfies a demand, a lust, a covetousness, even if it’s one you wish you simply didn’t possess.
But you do. You do.
You’ll regret it later. You might even regret it at the time.
The thing is, you just can’t help yourself.
I’ve seen it twice.