Mickey Pearson, marijuana magnate, is looking to sell off his business and retire. But it’s not that straightforward in the criminal world and thus begins a web of favours called in and betrayals avenged…
Note: I am not very familiar with Guy Ritchie’s body of work apart from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (which I really enjoyed), Sherlock Holmes (2009 and 2011, both of which I thought were just ok), and Aladdin (also just ok).
Things I Enjoyed
- The costume design.
I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but apparently Guy Ritchie’s quite interested in fashion. All of a sudden, the costume design choices here and in Man from UNCLE make complete sense. They’re sharp and stylish and somewhat aspirational. Yes, nearly all the characters in this movie are rather awful people – it’s a movie where the main characters are essentially villains and worse villains. But they sure do know how to dress!
Colin Farrell’s character “Coach” might be the one with the least dress sense, but the patterned tracksuits make him memorable in a cast where half of them are wearing snazzy suits or some variant of stereotypical gangster or streetwear.
- Having Fletcher (Hugh Grant) narrate nearly the entire story as if he was pitching a movie script was a pretty interesting framing device.
If I hadn’t known from the outset that Hugh Grant was in this movie, I think it would have taken me a long time to recognise him in the role. Costume and makeup really helped transform him, as did the somewhat flamboyant Cockney accent he adopted.
- Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) was an oddly likeable character. He was just a highly capable man who didn’t seem to like what his job entailed but still did it extremely well regardless. Well, except for having two accidental deaths on his hands… (Mickey’s sarcastic remark about him needing to invest in parachutes was funny though.)
- Rosalind (Michelle Dockery) was intriguing and I wish she’d had more to do. Her garage, staffed entirely by female mechanics, could probably be the subject of another movie on its own. I liked that she seems to be a solid businesswoman too. Mickey has his business, and she has hers.
- The pacing of the movie was pretty good. I did not feel compelled to check the time on multiple occasions (as I admit to doing for many of the movies I have seen recently). Things skipped along rapidly, and I think it was greatly assisted by the framing device of Fletcher’s narration.
- I liked that Coach, reluctantly dragged into this by his rowdy young charges who unknowingly raid one of Pearson’s secret cannabis farms, ultimately becomes the hero. Coach saves Raymond; and his rowdy young charges, although intending to kill Mickey for Coach’s sake, end up saving him inadvertently. Coach is somewhat like a Robin Hood character. He’s obviously got some sort of gangster background but he lives now to train young men from the streets and tries to teach them to go straight instead of becoming gangsters. That made him interesting.
Things I Didn’t Enjoy
- I did not enjoy the music. It’s appropriate for the style of movie, but I simply didn’t enjoy it.
- Absolutely hated the scene where Rosalind almost gets assaulted by Dry Eye (Henry Golding). I have never enjoyed scenes where sexual assault is so much as hinted at, even if I understand its purpose in the narrative. I get it here: they wanted to make sure the audience felt that Mickey’s reactions were understandable – to cheat him of his money is one thing, but to harm his wife is another. But did they have to go that far? I know it’s an “almost” scene but I really wish they’d left it out or had Mickey show up as Dry Eye was wresting the gun away from her instead of moments after.
- The level of violence was rather too high… Again, I understand that it’s part of the genre. In a story about gangsters it would be very hard to not have any violence at all. But toning it down a little would have made the movie easier for me to enjoy. (Fortunately, I saw most of it coming and had just enough time to avert my eyes at the most violent moments.)
- The above also applies to the swearing. I personally could’ve done with a little less of it but I also see that it was a choice made in favour of emphasizing the rough edges and cutthroat natures of some of these externally genteel characters.
- Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) could have been a much more interesting character. The movie was ostensibly mostly about him but it felt like Raymond and Fletcher were the actual main characters. Kinda wish they’d given Mickey more to do, if for no other reason than to help me like him more and have a stronger reason to root for him. I didn’t dislike the character but he was simply less interesting than Raymond or Rosalind, although there was potential for him to be just as interesting because his backstory implied that he’s incredibly clever both in academics and in business.
- The dialogue was really slang-heavy. I usually have no trouble following English-language movies regardless of accent but wow, subtitles were really necessary for this one. It was full of what I assume must be British gangster-speak. Without subtitles I could have comprehended the gist of it just from context but I would have lost out on a lot of detail. At one point the movie itself inserts a subtitle just to make sure so the audience understands exactly how much money Mickey and his potential buyer are talking about.
- Why is Dry Eye called Dry Eye? I wish they’d explained that.