mon 15/07/2024

The Gentlemen, Netflix review - Guy Ritchie's further adventures in Geezerworld | reviews, news & interviews

The Gentlemen, Netflix review - Guy Ritchie's further adventures in Geezerworld

The Gentlemen, Netflix review - Guy Ritchie's further adventures in Geezerworld

Riotous assembly of toffs, gangsters, travellers, rogues and misfits

More tea, your Grace? Theo James as Edward Horniman, Duke of Halstead

Welcome back to Guy Ritchie’s Geezerworld, familiar from such slices of lurid villainhood as Lock, Stock…, RocknRolla and The Gentlemen (the movie). The Gentlemen (the TV series) takes some cues from the similarly-named big-screen event from 2019, but becomes its own distinctive self as it unwinds across eight episodes.

Mind you, it does display signs of mild schizophrenia. The first two episodes punch the clock at just over an hour, but then the running times throttle back to around the 40-minute mark. It’s as if Ritchie and his collaborators, who include co-writer Matthew Read and several directors, went charging off in feature film mode before suddenly remembering that this was a slightly different ballgame.

But in the end you don’t really worry much about the length, since The Gentlemen is such a non-stop feast of larger-than-life characters, ridiculous plot twists, slapstick comedy and grotesque violence that it’s easy to just sit back while Netflix’s auto-play function rolls it all past your over-saturated eyeballs.The Gentlemen, NetflixThe story centres around Edward Horniman (Theo James), an army captain who is called back from his UN posting when his father, the Duke of Halstead, becomes critically ill (we get a fleeting glimpse of Edward Fox, as Archibald Horatio Landrover Horniman, on his deathbed). Though Eddie is the younger son, he gets to inherit the Halstead estate, to the fury and disgust of his older brother Freddy (Daniel Ings), but since Freddy is a hysterical coke addict with slightly damp sawdust for brains, you can see the old Duke’s point.

What Eddie hasn’t realised is that the Halstead estate contains a hidden surprise, namely the presence of a vast underground cannabis farm, itself part of a network of similar operations concealed beneath various aristocratic piles (the hard-up toffs are desperate for the drug money to keep their ramshackle dwellings from collapsing). Somehow, this didn’t get mentioned in dad’s will.

What fascinates Ritchie, it seems, is the way that thrusting career villains and olde worlde aristocrats inhabit opposite ends of the same social continuum. One of the characters, Stanley Johnston – a suave and menacing American carpetbagger played by Giancarlo Esposito, best known as Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring – delivers a pointed little monologue about how Britain’s real gangsters were the nobility, who grabbed all the wealth for themselves and then rigged the system to ensure that it stayed within their families for eternity. Ritchie himself has adopted the country squire lifestyle at his Ashcombe House estate in Wiltshire, so maybe he has a few secrets buried under the ancestral turf.

Anyway, all this brings Eddie into close proximity to Susie Glass (a deliciously cool and poised performance from Kaya Scodelaria, pictured above), who runs the family weed-growing business while her father Bobby (Ray Winstone, naturally, pictured below) languishes in a preposterously well-appointed prison and growls at everybody. Though the cannabis operation has netted the Halsteads a hefty profit over the years, Eddie is keen to cut the ties with organised crime and put the estate on a legitimate footing, but inevitably it’s not that simple.The Gentlemen, NetflixExtricating himself from the strangling tendrils of criminality involves Eddie in encounters with a smorgasbord of rogues and misfits. There’s a family of murderous cartoon Scousers, the Dixons, bossed by a religious maniac who seems to think he’s John the Baptist (Pearce Quigley), and Eddie needs to execute some fancy footwork to pacify the aggressively mercenary Ward family. Ritchie slips in a little woke social satire here when Eddie calls the Wards “gypsies”, which earns him a broadside from Kellie Ann (Leah McNamara): “We’re a fuckin’ minority! You need to go away and do some diversity training. We’re not gypsies, we’re travellers.”

A smoothly menacing performance by Max Beesley as scheming boxing promoter and money launderer Henry Collins, and a surprisingly nuanced turn by Vinnie Jones as the Halstead family’s veteran retainer Geoff, add some additional flavours to the brew, while Joely Richardson lends a touch of class as Lady Sabrina, Eddie’s mother. However, Freddie Fox rather lets the side down as an aristocratic Nazi.

As Eddie, Theo James is focused and laconic, and on this showing he wouldn’t be the worst James Bond the world has ever seen. It's amusing to recall that he played the Turkish diplomat Mr Pamuk in Downton Abbey, the one who died of a heart attack during a night of passion with Lady Mary. Those aristocrats, eh? I ask you.

Eddie is keen to cut the ties with organised crime, but inevitably it’s not that simple

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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