Rates: * *
Why Did I Watch It? Newish release that a lot of my friends and workmates had seen.
Mickey Pearson is part of London’s criminal elite; head of a massive marijuana empire with his own private army, privilaged and protected. But his decision to sell up causes ripples, as rival kingpins try and get their hands on his operation at the best possible price. Which of the many players can navigate the labyrinth and come out on top?
After a long hiatus, British director Guy Richie returns to the genre that made his name (this is his first gangster movie since ‘RocknRolla’ in 2008). And this is exactly like watching a band that had a few hit songs early on, went experimental, lost popularity, took a few years off, and came back to headline a ‘Greatest Hits’ tour.
The same moves are there. The camera jumps around. The characters all have slang nicknames like ‘Coach’ and ‘Dry Eye’. Most of the them can perfectly predict what everyone will do in the future (in a way that made me think of the heist episode in season 4 of ‘Rick and Morty’). It is very colourful and the soundtrack is loud. There are a lot of throwaway one liners.
But this is not fresh anymore.
Richie’s early hits were essentially cockney Tarantino, only shorter and sillier. While they were never especially distinguished, they were fun, and had a lot of energy. But QT, and even Richie himself, have been endlessly imitated now, and this plays like a stale copy of something best left in another era.
Even a quick search of reviews for this film will reveal the term ‘casual racism’. The Asian gangsters and black thugs are undoubtedly not deliberately offensive, but they are stereotypes, at a time when this is not what people are looking for. The time for this sort of stuff is long passed. The writing of the film overall is lazy, as characters come and go, and stuff happens, for no reason other than to fill out the generous run time.
A couple of the actors do something with the material. Hugh Grant is fun to watch, although his character is another problematic caricature, and Colin Farrell is a hoot as a nattily dressed boxing coach, although his section of the film is the most tacked on; he comes in late and there’s really no reason for him and his boys to be involved, except that Richie has confused convoluted with exciting. Matthew McConnaughey looks bored out of his mind, and disappears for long stretches (perhaps Richie picked up on this, let him wander off).
And all of this; the flashbacks, flash forwards, flash sideways, imaginary scenes, needle drops, characters rapping made up slang, head shots, comic suicides and other violent deaths, all of this activity in the service of one billionaire drug dealer getting a better deal from another billionaire drug dealer. I mean: jesus fucking christ.