“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.
“Well, you grow up your whole lives together, you make excuses for people.”
Astrid Young Teo
Notable as a very rare Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast, it is great to see a film like Crazy Rich Asians succeed but that does not automatically elevate it beyond a derivative romantic comedy. A few early scenes suggest an insightful wit, like news spreading to family in Singapore through gossiping message chains before the end of a conversation in a New York. Yet, for most of the running time, the Singaporean location serves as set dressing, only occasionally touching upon the family dynamics specific to the Chinese diaspora. The film’s chief issue is wanting to have its cake and eat it — telling the story of a modest outsider rebuffed by a wealthy family, whilst at the same time glamourising the indulgence afforded by that wealth. The rare big budget representation in Crazy Rich Asians is welcome, featuring a who’s who of Western Asian actors, but — like many of its privileged characters — there is a disappointing superficiality to its success.
“Oh, you don’t want to be friends with me, trust me.”
Lately Paul Feig has carved out a mainstream niche in typically light female-fronted films, varying from the excellent Bridesmaids to the disappointing Ghostbusters reboot. A Simple Favour takes a darker turn from the outset when an overachieving single mother searches for answers after her new best friend goes missing, but it never fully commits tonally in the way of Gone Girl. Anna Kendrick may seem miscast as a sleuth but her charming naïvité, narrating her discoveries through a vlog for mothers, is intentional. Blake Lively makes it believable that the troubled and often distanced Emily would draw people in despite her abrasiveness (she certainly won me over not just through her love of Martinis but by specifically referencing Dukes Bar and its particularly potent recipe for the cocktail). This all makes for an excellent first half — unfortunately the script then unravels with a need not just to offer revelations but repeatedly to retcon characters’ pasts. The resulting conclusion is cheapened almost to the point of parody.