It is not overstating things to say that this film signals the return of director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes – 2009, Snatch). A return to his origins as a storyteller. Tales involving clever, fast paced dialogue, lovable rogues, and fist fights/gun play. Throughout his career Ritchie has definitely developed a film persona – one of kinda being the British version of Quentin Tarantino. Now, there are differences between the two writer/directors, but they definitely tell stories which involve off coloured language, plenty of dialogue, cleverness, violence, and plots or schemes.
Most of his film roster on IMDB involves these types of films. It is when he steps away from his established identity that he tends to stumble. Variety has not been the spice of life for Mr. Ritchie. Films like Swept Away (with his then wife Madonna), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the live action version of Aladdin where he has not seemed as comfortable. While the first film in that list was atrocious, the other two weren’t. Meaning, you rarely get rubbish from Guy Ritchie. If you go to one of his films you are bound to be at least “entertained”, which I think is more than half the battle.
Here the director is back to his cocky, bold and lively self. Definitely feeling himself and in his element. While the story involves gangsters, unique characters and at times frenetic pace, he changes things up enough so you don’t feel like you are rewatching past works like the underrated Rocknrolla and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Here we get a “story” for a film told by shady private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant – Notting Hill, Four Weddings & a Funeral) to Ray (Charlie Hunnam – from television’s Sons of Anarchy), the right hand man of weed magnate and American ex-pat, Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club, Magic Mike). Fletcher tells Ray that unless his boss Mickey cuts him a cheque for $20 million he will bring his story to Big Dave (Eddie Marsan – from television’s Ray Donovan), a newspaper publisher who has it out for Mickey.
Fletcher begins, during the course of an evening over a bottle of expensive scotch, the story of a weed dealer who is wanting to get out of the business and retire to a life in the countryside of England with his wife, Rosalind (Michelle Dockery – from television’s Downton Abbey), and maybe start a family.
The weed dealer, who has an ingenious method of growing and an extensive sales contact list, knows even after weed becomes legal his business is worth billions. So, it would take someone with deep pockets to pay him what it is worth. This leads to a negotiation with another former American, Matthew (Jeremy Strong – from television’s Succession). A sales pitch occurs and the price of $400 million is agreed upon.
They say in weed and business (or something like that) nothing goes smoothly. Such is the case here as another member of the criminal element named Dry Eye (Henry Golding – Last Christmas, Crazy Rich Asians) gets involved and while bringing back home the drug addict young daughter of a business associate leads to unexpected complications. The violence and body count rises. Mickey is not happy as that brings attention and attention is the last thing criminals want. Oh yeah, did I mention that one of Mickey’s weed growing spots gets robbed by a bunch of young men, who are all boxers at a gym run by a guy they call Coach (Colin Farrell – In Bruges, Widows)?
In the end it seems like Fletcher has Mickey and Ray over a barrel unless they pay up. Or do they have some unplayed cards up their sleeves?
What could be more fun that a story involving blackmail, bribery, working class thugs who hate the upper class, complications, treachery, and a fight porn video? Not much is my answer.
A important part of what Ritchie does is how well his films are cast. It seems like they have the uncanny knack of casting the perfect people in the roles. McConaughey is perfect as the intelligent and supremely cool Mickey, Strong is a believable weasel, Hunnam is hot and composed, and Marsan is a hoot as Big Dave. The person who deserves special notice is Hugh Grant. This is his best turn in a while. His accent, his mannerisms and the way he delivers his lines are all note perfect. It has been a while since he has done funny onscreen…or done it well. He is such a likable actor to watch it is very pleasing when he gets material to deliver which is up to the task.