Tag Archives: Hugh Grant

Rumble in the Jungle

The Gentlemen

by George Wolf

If nothing else, Guy Ritchie and his Gentlemen are not lacking in self-confidence. This is a film, and a filmmaker, anxious to prove the old guys can still cut it, and that any young upstart who thinks otherwise has a painful lesson coming.

Ritchie returns to the testosterone-laden, subtitle-needin’ bloody British gangster comedy terrain of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – the early films that still define him – for a stylish ride through a violent jungle with a man who’s not sure he still wants to be King.

Matthew McConaughey is Mickey Pearson, an American Rhodes Scholar who put his brains to work in the drug trade, utilizing a string of expansive British estates to build an underground network that controls the supply of “bush” aka “supercheese” aka weed.

But now it seems he’s ready for a quiet life of leisure with wife Roz (Michelle Dockery), and offers to sell his entire operation to brilliant criminal nerd Matthew (Jeremy Strong) for a sizable sum.

As Matthew is mulling, Roz smells “fuckery afoot,” and she smells wisely.

There’s plenty, and a PI named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) thinks he has it all figured out, so much so that he visits Ray (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey’s number two, with an offer to save Mickey’s hide…in exchange for a hefty fee.

Ya follow? There’s plenty more, and it’s all spelled out via the screenplay Fletcher has conveniently written. As Fletcher joyously outlines the plot to Ray (and us) over scotches and steaks, Ritchie uses the device to play with possible threads, backtrack, and start again.

The Gentlemen is not just meta. As the double crosses and corpses mount, it becomes shamelessly meta, a sometimes engaging, other times tiresome romp buoyed by slick visual style and committed performances (especially Grant and Hunnam), but marred by self-satisfaction and stale humor that might have been less tone deaf a decade ago.

You get the feeling that after a marriage to Madonna and some big Hollywood franchise films (Sherlock Homes, Aladdin), Ritchie is out to prove he hasn’t gone soft with a little raucous, chest-beating fun.

But while The Gentlemen does show Ritchie’s way with a camera can still be impressive, its best parts only add up to a fraction of their promise.

A Very Rare Sort of Bear

Paddington 2

by Cat McAlpine

Paddington 2 paints a beautiful, pop-up love letter to London. It breaks down something like this:

Wes Anderson aesthetic + Lemony Snicket whimsy + marmalade = Paddington Bear’s latest adventure.

Sure, this is a kid’s movie. The main character is a talking bear. His greatest aspiration is to buy a rare pop-up book of London for his Aunt’s birthday. In most ways, the film is predictable. Almost rote. But there’s some sparkle there, too.

Firstly, the movie is incredibly well lit. Lighting this good has no business in a children’s film’s sequel. And yet there it is. Warm yellow homes, moody shafts of light through window panes, snowy alleyways. That light isn’t wasted either. It illuminates bright, punchy sets and colorful costumes hung on a parade of quirky characters.

The Wes Anderson inspiration shows up in bright green rooms and pastel pink prison uniforms. Director Paul King finds sweetness in even life’s most ordinary moments. Where he cannot find sweetness, in a grimy pipe or a shattered telephone box, he finds curiosity instead, playing with light and camera angles.

Following a pop-up book of London, King makes sure to hit all of London’s beloved landmarks. London is a part of Paddington’s mythology. It’s a magical kingdom full of fun and mystery. King paints the city beautifully.

Secondly, what a cast. Sally Hawkins, fresh off her incredible performance in The Shape of Water, oozes gumption. English favorites parade across the screen: Peter Capaldi, Richard Ayoade, Brendan Gleeson.

None quite as fun, though, as Hugh Grant in his role as an unhinged stage actor. As the baddie, Grant never slips into evil. Nefarious, yes, but never evil. King keeps his film silly, always, but never allows it to be hollow.

For every predictable gag there’s a genuinely funny moment, too. Good children’s films cater to their whole audience, kids and parents. Its important to screen films like these in theatres. I was reminded of this when a character passed out, face down, into a cake. The children in the audience shrieked with delight.

That’s Paddington 2’s final merit. It’s good natured. It has jokes, visual gags, and constant reminders to be kind. Paddington believes in himself, his family, and his friends. Sure, a children’s film about a talking bear isn’t destined to be profound. But it manages to be sweet all the way through, just like marmalade.