The Gentlemen: Guy Ritchie says film themes were ‘worth exploring’ in Netflix series

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By Steven McIntosh

Entertainment reporter

Five years after The Gentlemen took audiences on a journey of mayhem and marijuana, director Guy Ritchie is returning for another crime caper.

But this time, the titular gentlemen – along with quite a few ladies – are returning for an eight-part TV series. Ritchie said there were themes and storylines which were “worth exploring” further following the film. Critics have broadly welcomed the series, although some say Ritchie relies too much on his usual style.

Empire said Ritchie “simply remixes his hit singles” for the series, with “more gangsters, more heists, infinitely more dialogue”.

But the Radio Times said that, in spite of its shortcomings, the series ultimately is “an absolute boat-load of fun”.

The 2019 film starred Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant – but none of them have returned to the franchise to appear in the TV series.

Instead, Theo James takes the lead opposite supporting characters played by Vinnie Jones, Ray Winstone, Joely Richardson and Max Beesley.

The series sees Eddie Halstead (played by James) inherit his wealthy father’s country estate following his death, much to the fury of Eddie’s pompous and drug-addicted elder brother Freddy.

Eddie initially considers selling the house to a rich but mysterious buyer – played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito – but decides against it when he finds the estate is partly being used to grow cannabis for an extremely successful underground drug empire.

Speaking at the premiere on Tuesday, Ritchie said adapting the film into a TV series “actually turned out to be easier than I anticipated”. “You feel that this could run and run,” he continued, “the characters take on their own life, all you have to do is establish a character and create their own voice, and then couple that with an actor and we’re off to the races.”

Viewers who haven’t seen the film needn’t worry; the TV series stands alone and does not require any prior knowledge.

Although it focuses on a similar criminal underworld and other familiar Ritchie themes, the show follows a whole new cast of characters and makes almost no references to the film.

“The fascinating conceit was what attracted me,” James said at the premiere, “the melding of the aristocracy and the underworld, and how those things collide in the bombastic way.

“Britain is so defined by class, and we love it and hate for various reasons, but defining it in the melee of this was really fascinating for me.” One of the show’s toughest and most assured characters is Susie Glass – played by Kaya Scodelario – who is running the cannabis farm under the estate’s grounds. “I very rarely get to portray women that are already at the top of the game when you meet them,” the actress said, “it’s always a young woman finding her way in life.”But what I loved about Susie is she’s a boss, she’s good at her job, she can run things; she knows exactly what she’s doing.” Esposito plays the wealthy investor who has his eye on the estate – Stanley Johnston. “With a T,” he repeatedly says – perhaps to differentiate the character from the real-life Boris Johnson’s father.

The political references appear to be deliberate – another character is named Toni Blair.

Esposito said his character “is someone who is graceful, patient, cordial, and the British are that way”. “So this seems to be a perfect collision of this aristocratic culture and nature, but also not only criminality and non-humanity. And for me, that tells a bigger picture of our world.”Ritchie’s credits include Aladdin and The Covenant, but he is best known for films which focus on themes of violence, gangsters and drugs but with a uniquely British twist. Films such as Snatch, RockNRolla and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels were hugely successful at the box office in the late nineties and early noughties.


What have the critics said?

Critics were broadly agreed that the series was entertaining, but several felt Ritchie leaned to heavily on his familiar style.

The Wall Street Journal’s John Anderson said: “No surprise, this crime dramedy showcases the Ritchie style, which is all about style: leaping jump cuts, slo-mo mayhem, layered imagery and dialogue, subtitles barging in on the mise-en-scène, and the visual implication that the world being put together is about to fly apart.

“The show does feel a bit bloated at times, self-indulgent in trademark Ritchie fashion. But the fact that the series comes across as a collection of short stories makes it far more palatable, and fun.” There was agreement from the Evening Standard’s Vicky Jessop, who awarded the series four stars. “This all sounds wearily like going over old ground but surprisingly I found this hard to hate. It’s just too fun: the fast cars, the increasingly unhinged baddies and how everything keeps going wrong in ever more spectacular ways.”

But Empire’s Beth Webb said: “The pace lags; Ritchie’s usual speed flagging without the confines of a feature film, and the story is padded out by too much exposition

“Perhaps a smaller number of episodes could have saved The Gentlemen from verging on disengaging,” she said. “Instead, it scrapes by on playing Ritchie’s greatest hits.”

The series was described as “messy, convoluted, at times absurd and frequently overblown”, by James Hibbs of Radio Times. “But,” he countered, “Above all that, it is an absolute boat-load of fun.”

“For all those who enjoyed the film, even loved it, there were others who found it too violent, too glib, and too high on its own supply.

“If that’s you, then you’ll want to stay away from this series. If that sounds like a bit of you, though, then strap in – it’s going to be a truly wild ride.”

And Variety’s Aramide Tinubu said the show’s “hijinks, plots and gory violence” will keep viewers entertained, adding the series “unfolds like a dazzling web of turmoil, keeping viewers sucked in over its eight episodes”.

Red carpet photos

The show’s premiere took place in London’s Covent Garden on Tuesday evening, with several cast members walking the red carpet and later taking part in a Q&A on stage.