No one makes a gangster movie quite like Guy Ritchie. From his Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels to RocknRolla, his unique style and camerawork, plus his utterly flamboyant scripts are legendary. Sure he’s made films like the recent Disney remake of Aladdin and his narcissistic Swept Away, but this is his true calling.
This crime story is told as a story: one night Fletcher (nearly unrecognizable Hugh Grant), a creepy private investigator, sneaks into the home of Raymond (Charlie Hunnam), the faithful lieutenant of Michael “Mickey” Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American crime lord in Britain whose specialty is growing massive amounts of marijuana. Fletcher spins a story to Raymond, in the form of a screenplay he’s written called “Bush” about Mickey and the lucrative deal he’s made with another American dealer named Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) in selling his entire cash crop for $400 million. As Raymond listens to Fletcher’s story, we (the audience) see the story play out, as Fletcher tells it, “in 2:35 cinematic aspect ratio”.
Y’see, Fletcher’s boss, sleazy Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), runs the Daily Print tabloid (like our National Enquirer) and wants to ruin Mickey after he dissed Big Dave at a cocktail party. Fletcher has all the blackmail goods on Mickey (photos, videos, etc) and wants $20 million to keep the info quiet. We also learn that, not only does Matthew want all of Mickey’s huge marijuana crop and all secret places where it’s grown, but there’s a second player that wants it as well. Older Chinese gangster Lord George (Tom Wu) has an ambitious underling named Dry Eye (Henry Golding) that wants that gigantic bounty of weed that Mickey is selling off as well, but Mickey ain’t about to sell it to anybody else but Matthew.
Meanwhile, one of Mickey’s secret pot locations gets robbed and fingers are pointed all around. The culprits turn out to be a bunch of punk boxers from a local fight club who like putting rapping fight-porn videos on line. But when their Coach (Colin Farrell) realizes it was crime boss Mickey’s weed, he immediately tries to makes amends by any means possible. There are other side stories scattered here and there, like Mickey’s gorgeous wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery), that runs an all-female high-end car shop, but suffice to say, they all converge at the end as Fletcher wraps up his tale to Raymond… but with some twists and turns.
This is pure Ritchie as he wrote & directed this darkly funny, edgy, complex, and crazy story within a story that gets very meta towards the end. Laced with heavy amounts of both F-bombs and C-bombs, the language is about as colorful as the accents, along with many British euphemisms and slang terms. It’s cool to hear the actors you’ve seen before speak in their native tongue. Hugh Grant is the storyteller and boy! He’s better than ever! Framing the movie as both the narrator and participant, he comes off as a wretched gay slimeball and revels in it.
And it’s great to hear McConaughey speak Ritchie’s eloquent words as the gangster who never loses his cool. . .until he does. Even the ensemble are having fun here: the boxers that serve as the henchmen for the Coach, the hitmen for Mickey; they all have some semblance of individuality instead of just a character thrown in. The action is full of violence, but not as graphic or gory as you might think. Ritchie keeps the blood down to a minimum this time and focuses on the wonderful characters and their quirkiness. Although Hunnam has the second lead and the most intense (aside from McConaughey), Farrell is the most fun to watch.
Guy Ritchie. The man loves his crime comedy-drama’s like Snatch or Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels. As part one of a supposed trilogy, this wildly wicked and rapid-paced film features a dynamite cast and, a crazy plot involving a missing painting, and sorta-dead punk rocker
The seedier side of London has three crooked BFF’s who are referred to as The Wild Bunch: One-Two (Gerard Butler), his partner Mumbles (Idris Elba), and their driver, Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). But these guys fall victim to a shady con set up by the cities biggest crime lord, Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) involving housing and a land-grab. To get the money they owe him, they’ll have to steal it, and One-Two’s contact into getting some big-time cash is Stella (Thadie Newton), a devious accountant who works for Uri Omovich (Karel Oden), a billionaire Russian businessman who could take over Lenny’s territory. Got all that? Good.
But in order to make a killing in London’s profitable real estate game, Uri will have to rely on a temporary partnership with Lenny, since he knows all the right political wheels to grease. As a token of gratitude, Uri lets Lenny borrow his precious ‘lucky painting’, but things go nuts after the painting gets stolen by Lenny’s nasty punk rock step-son, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbel), who was just pronounced dead that morning!
In several plots spinning at once, Lenny’s trusted aide, Archie (Mark Strong) is out tracking down both the painting (which we never see what it looks like!) AND Johnny. Meanwhile, the Wild Bunch is stealing all the payments Uri is making to Lenny (without either of them knowing who’s doing it) and Stella is being courted by Uri while Johnny is being sought by his managers (Jeremy Piven & Ludacris) AND One-Two is having a hard time coming to grips about Bob’s sexuality. Whew!
First off, I love Guy Ritchie films. He has a flair for the absurd and sinister that are absorbing, wild-west-ish, and darkly funny at the same time. This one, both written & directed by him, is no exception. It hit #1 in the UK, and you can see why. There’s something about British movies that seem less inhibited than our own; a more satisfied flavor, look, and feel to them unmatched by U.S. made movies. And to hear Elba, Butler, Hardy, and the rest speaking in their native tongue with Ritchie’s explosive dialogue is just the icing on the cake.
Ritchie’s whip-smart direction is all over this movie, as he glides with his Panaflex camera in the chase scenes, robbery scenes, or just the claustrophobic meeting rooms, his signature moves are all over the place. That, and his use of narration and open-ended plot-lines, are his stock in trade. This movie may not tie up certain loose ends, but I guess we’ll have to wait for parts two and three for that, right? Uh… just a side note, part one was back in 2008. Guy! We’re still waiting for part two!!