(director/writer: Guy Ritchie; screenwriters: story by Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies; cinematographer: Alan Stewart; editors: James Herbert/Paul Machliss; music: Christopher Benstead; cast: Hugh Grant (Fletcher), Charlie Hunnam (Ray), Jeremy Strong (Matthew), Colin Farrell (Coach), Michelle Dockery (Rosalind Pearson), Matthew McConaughey (Michael Pearson), Eddie Marsan (Big Dave), Henry Golding (Dry Eye), Tom Wu (Lord George), Lyne Renée (Jackie), Jason Wong (Phuc), Eliot Sumner (Laura Pressfield), Sam West (Lord Pressfield); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bill Block/Ivan Atkinson/Guy Ritchie; STX Films; 2019)
“This is not a bad crime drama, it’s an awful one.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Brit director-writer Guy Ritchie (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels“/”Snatch”) does his usual shallow gangster thing. Almost everything about it I found displeasing. It’s based on a story by Ivan Atkinson, and is co-written by Ritchie and Marn Davies. The characters are all one-dimensional, the plot makes no sense and the director’s smugness in how clever this trifle is unnerving. This is not a bad crime drama, it’s an awful one. Ritchie just doesn’t know how to tell a story, and this can’t be any clearer than in this film.
The Oxford-educated American expatriate Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) has decided to sell his inventive and lucrative cannabis empire in the UK for a discounted $400 million to this oily, untrustworthy American Jewish businessman billionaire Matthew (Jeremy Strong) and enjoy an early retirement with his enterprising lanky wife Roz (Michelle Dockery), whom he dearly loves. We follow the sales trajectory as things go wrong and the story becomes more and more convoluted as Mickey assumes the role of a good guy gangster, though not adverse to killing even if unwilling to deal in heroin. Mickey tries to make the sale happen without setting off a gang war, despite being betrayed.
It opens with a corrupt and slimy pushy snoop, handy with a camera, Fletcher (Hugh Grant), sneaking into the house of Ray (Charlie Hunnam), and revealing to him his blackmail plan of Ray’s boss Michael Pearson. We’re stuck with this Fletcher bloke throughout, as in every subsequent scene he gives more info of his plan to collect a 120 pounds by blackmailing the retiring drug lord who is at the top of his game.
We get sniffs of each of the main characters involved, that include an immoral newspaper editor, Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), who is willing to buy compromising photos from Fletcher to expose Mickey because he snubbed him at a party. The Chinaman, Dry Eye (Henry Golding), the ambitious hard-ass gangster who is under the racketeer Lord George (Tom Wu), but has a chance to be the big man in town if he plays his cards right with Matthew. The Chinaman uses his gunmen to betray Matthew over their private deal and deals harshly with Lord George when he tries to stop him. There’s also an eccentric tough guy around, known as the Coach (Colin Farrell), who is not a gangster but helps out delinquent street kids by training them in his gym. Coach gets involved when his street kids locate one of the secret 12 farms where Mickey grows his drugs, and are being hunted down by Mickey’s enforcers for photographing on their smart phone the farm. It turns out the drugs are on the grounds of the rich lords, who welcome the big money Mickey gives them for using their estates to grow and distribute weed. The elites respect Mickey as a gangster they can trust.
The crude druggie film is talky, filled with endless twists and the villains are stereotyped as Jews, Asians and fags. The film has a piggish stink to it that goes along with its violence, chaos and strained comedy. It will take some time to get over viewing this nightmare and feel good again.
REVIEWED ON 1/3/2021 GRADE: C