The Gentlemen

The Gentlemen

2024 - United Kingdom

A huge part of why the gangster drama works is the bizarre cast of characters populating it

The Gentlemen review by Jennifer AJ

When the aging Duke of Halstead succumbs to his illness, his son Edward “Eddie” Horniman (Theo James) not only inherits the family fortune, but also an underground weed empire that’s been running discreetly in their estate for years. That’s the punchy premise of the new Netflix action comedy series The Gentlemen, a spinoff of Guy Ritchie’s 2019 movie of the same name. 

Right off the bat, Ritchie’s signature style – best exemplified on projects such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes movies – is all over the project. British gangsters and their seedy travails, the debonair visuals (those tailored suits and expensive leathers), the zippy editing, the acerbic sense of humour (when your main character is an aristocrat whose surname is Horniman, you know he’s onto something). The confident aesthetic immediately drops you into a heightened world of madcap underbelly with a dark sense of humour. 

The Gentlemen

Ritchie’s works are often written off as style over substance, but in The Gentlemen’s case, the style completely elevates the substance of the story. The over-the-top dialogue and visuals underscore the bizarre circumstance that Eddie finds himself in after being unexpectedly made his father’s successor, passing over his hapless older brother. As things go from bad to worse for Eddie, the zaniness, too, is amped up notch by notch: the camerawork gets crazier, the music more dramatic, and the editing more gonzo. These stylistic choices could easily be overwhelming, but it thankfully never does because the bizarro is baked into the core of the series. 

A huge part of why the gangster drama works is the bizarre cast of characters populating it. Like a good British show, clashes between people of different social classes and accents is central to the story. And when those characters embrace and mock the stereotypes that come with them, the fun is quadrupled.

Eddie, the protagonist, is the most normal, the audience proxy you can say. Like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, He’s the strait-laced son who’s plucked back from the military to save the family business from his useless siblings. He’s cool and upright, but soon enough he’s gotta get his polished hands dirty.

The Gentlemen

His older brother Freddy Horniman (Daniel Ings) is the quintessential loser – a mix of Fredo and Sonny from The Godfather who’s equal parts useless and reckless to the point of dangerous. Freddy’s debt is what leads up to skirmish with a Scouse crime family, themselves entertainingly written in a distinctively British way. (As a front to their operation, the Scouse works at the fish market as a butcher.)

And then there’s the scion of the weed industry going on in his estate, Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario). Well-dressed and pragmatic to a fault, Susie struts to every room already ten steps ahead of her opponents, making her a formidable presence who’s also amusingly witty. She becomes an invaluable ally to Eddie, though her motivation is opportunistic: Susie needs to keep the cannabis operation going at all cost, including helping Eddie deal with his family’s mess. Their grey area dynamic keeps things unpredictable.

There are still many more bit players in The Gentlemen who make the show’s world feel so graphic novel-y: badass groundskeeper, mysterious American tycoon with vested interest in Eddie’s estate, eccentric European cannabis distributor, the list goes on. Eventually, although the crime family storylines are nothing that new, you come to enjoy it for the colourful characters.

Fans of gangster flick, British dark comedy, and suave James Bond-style action will find plenty to enjoy from this show. 

Published on March 28th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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