“If you wish to be The King of the jungle, it’s not enough to act like a king. You must be The King. And there can be no doubt. Because doubt causes chaos and one’s own demise.”
Every few years, Guy Ritchie attempts to rekindle the magic of Lock, Stock and Snatch with an East End gangster movie, in essence to prove that he can still make “a Guy Ritchie film”. My expectations were decidedly muted after repeated misfires like Revolver and RocknRolla, but The Gentlemen marks his most successful return to those roots to date. The usual ingredients are present: a talented ensemble cast, heavy sarcasm, drugs, violence and dark humour, this time channelled by a considerably better script. Hugh Grant’s unexpected casting as a scumbag investigator works well and, although his endless narration becomes tiresome, as a storytelling device it allows Ritchie to flex a little creative flair from scene to scene. Yet none of this feels particularly fresh 20 years later and old issues remain, with only a single notable woman as well as unnecessary and unchallenged casual racism (albeit from characters we are not supposed to like). Ritchie may once have shaken up gangster filmmaking but now he is only acting like a king, within an industry obsessed with repeating the past. Nevertheless, for fans of this particular style, The Gentlemen offers enjoyable if anachronistic entertainment.
“You know those movies where the picture just starts to slow down… and melt? Then catch fire? Well, that’s Berlin.”
Outside of superheroes, Hollywood has struggled to provide us with compelling female-led action movies. Atomic Blonde bucks the trend, though ironically Charlize Theron’s dedicated performance crafts a coldly determined character with whom audiences may struggle to empathise. A Cold War spy thriller with graphic novel roots, the script retains the unusual ability to surprise. Told in flashbacks through an adversarial debriefing, we know that what we are shown may not be the whole truth. James McAvoy’s nihilistic, brazenly duplicitous turn as a deep cover agent is a particular highlight. 1989 Berlin is shot in cool blues infused with splashes of neon colour — it’s reminiscent of John Wick (which Leitch co-directed). Everything is familiar then, including the action (a brutal extended fight in a stairwell stands out), but this strange blend of Le Carré and John Wick is presented with a stylish boldness that demands attention.
“The only thing they can’t forgive is not being from God’s Pocket.”
A meandering script and loose directorial hand underserve a talented cast in this story of a fictional blue collar Philadelphia neighbourhood, coping with a tragedy and hostile to outsiders. The posthumous release of one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances was bound to engender a favourable reception, but John Slattery’s directorial debut is a disappointing vehicle in which to take one last ride. It misses the mark in shooting for an absurdist tone, the darkly bizarre moments simply feeling out of place rather than comedic. God’s Pocket is worth watching for the acting alone but, much as the film glosses over Leon’s funeral, do not expect a fitting send-off for Hoffman.