Nothing in a movie is there by accident. The words are written, re-drafted, read by producers and passed by financiers. Then they are rehearsed by actors, blocked, shot from three or four angles, each with several takes, then often spoken again when dubbed in ADR.
So when, in Guy Ritchie’s latest London gangster-land roundelay, someone calls someone else a “black cunt”, it’s very much by design. So much so that Colin Farrell spends the next few minutes of the movie talking about why it’s ok to call someone a “black cunt”, explaining, no less, to the young black boxer in his gym, why he shouldn’t be offended by it. “You are black, and you are a cunt,” he says. “Those are facts.”
This knuckle-scraping (bottom of two smoking barrel-scraping) British cinematic moment in itself should be enough for you to know that The Gentlemen is a film made by cunts for cunts.
No, Guy Ritchie, it is not OK to call someone that, and I don’t need minutes of your lumpen dialogue twisting the locker-room logic of “it’s only a bit of banter” into an excuse as to why I, or the poor young actors you’re bullying into it, should have to put up with it.
But this is what we have and this is where we are. The Gentlemen is the film the last few months have given us: an arrogant, heartless, money-grubbing cesspit of a Britain, run by Russian gangsters, Chinese heroin dealers, fading aristos, pathetic tabloid editors, gypsy boxers, stabbing teenagers, American marijuana growers and weedy Jewish financiers. And, as they all tool up and threaten each other, we are supposed to find it all a ladsy lark, a mockney knees-up, a glorification of blood spattering all over your pint and pickled egg in a London boozer.
Oh people will tell me to lighten up, that I’m a snowflake to get offended by it. It’s a laugh, isn’t it? You’ve got Hugh Grant doing a mincing little cockney accent, Michelle Dockery giving it her best East End bird (the only woman in the film, who naturally gets threatened with rape), that charming suave Henry Golding telling everyone to Fuck Off. Ooh Guy, how brave, like the Farage of film, turning the British cinematic aristocracy upside down and shaking it into your deluded image of Britain, your pretend cockney cunt world.
Except everyone involved in this isn’t pretending. They all know what they’re doing. They proudly trumpet this is a Miramax film. Yes, the name dragged through the ruins of Harvey Weinstein’s collapsed and disgraced empire of sex and greed is resurrected, shiny and new, now a beIN media group company, owned by Qatar.
There are frozen Chinamen in Billingsgate fish freezers, posh junkies, naff rap videos and dreadful newspaper mock-ups. Characters are named Fletcher and Mickey Pearson, names nicked from great British sit-coms, and there’s a Jewish character called Matthew Berger, surely named after Ritchie’s best mate Josh Berger, head of Warner Bros in the UK and chairman of the BFI. He gets called “that Jew” a lot, in a way that’s not OK either. Didn’t you think to say something, Josh? You bullied, too?
In and around there are various bits of Ritchie branding, from his own-brew beer, to vans with his name on, his pubs, and posters for some of his previous crap films. A week since the election and we’re all living in a Guy Ritchie world and we all have to get on with it.
The central conceit is that Hugh Grant’s tabloid snooper has written a film script about the various, tortuous twists and swerves and one-upmanships of the current upheavals in the criminal underworld in which Matthew McConnaughey’s Mickey Pearson is trying to sell off his weed-growing empire, based under crumbling stately homes (how else can they afford to mend the roof?).
The vast swathes of exposition are so bombastic and witless that even Charlie Hunnam’s Geordie enforcer – drinking rare whisky in a chunky cardigan while grilling wagyu steaks on his built-in smokeless barbie – keeps interjecting: “What are you on about? I don’t understand.”
Whom are we supposed to be rooting for here? Each character is a scumbag, a violent thug seething with hatred and greed and expensive clobber yet Ritchie shoots them with admiration, with a chummy, clubby cosiness that says these are my people, this is my world and we are on top.
The Gentlemen is the first true Brexit movie of the new order, probably the first preening, strutting example of the pro-Brexit, one nation Tory world now emerging. This vile pile of bile is the new establishment. The biggest cunts are in charge now – and what are you going to do about it, you little cunt?