'The Gentlemen' isn't great, but it's pretty good for January

Brad Keefe
"The Gentlemen"

Let me let you in on a little secret. Well, it's not really much of a secret, but it's something I’ve definitely learned in my many years in the movie critic game.

No good movies come out in January.

OK, that’s not entirely true. But there’s a reason that the movies that come out in January come out in January.

If a studio thinks a movie is an Oscar contender, the movie comes out in December, even when the studio hilariously miscalculates. See “Cats,”* which I have seen, and, um, just why?.

*Also, it’s OK, Taylor Swift. I still love you. (“Miss Americana” arrives on Netflix and in select theaters on January 31.)

If a studio thinks a movie has real box-office potential, it comes out… not in January. Even if you want to stay away from a crowded summer, history (starting with “Hannibal” in 2001) has proven you can be a blockbuster as early as February.

So much of my approach to January comes with lowered expectations. There’s a reason they’re January movies.

Other things that generally suck in January: the weather, the reality that taxes are coming due and realizing it's been less than a month and you've already tanked your New Year's resolution. Sign up for our daily newsletter

And those lowered expectations came in handy with “The Gentlemen,” the new Guy Ritchie movie, which is every bit as much a core Guy Ritchie movie as “The Irishman” was a Martin Scorsese movie.

Like “The Irishman,” it’s Ritchie getting back to his greatest-hits roots, a la “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.”

In the interim, he’s had some solid big movies. Pairing with Robert Downey Jr. for a couple of movies that took a ridiculous action spin on “Sherlock Holmes” was a blast. “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was a reboot that showed off how much he really wants to make a Bond movie. Hell, I even liked his live-action “Aladdin” more than most.

But “The Gentleman,” with its solid cast, is a return to the criminal underbelly, as well as British accents so thick they’re just shy of requiring subtitles. Just keep your expectations at January levels.

The story, centered on a weed kingpin named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) who is looking to offload his massive U.K. operation, lends itself to all sorts of seedy characters. It’s an organized crime movie that allows for some great mob movie moments.

McConaughey is, interestingly, more in his “The Wolf of Wall Street”/Lincoln spokesman mode, as Pearson is more a shrewd businessmen than the easy-going stoner the actor flashed recently in “The Beach Bum.” And that’s alright, alright, alright.

More interestingly, there is a scene-stealing Hugh Grant as a seedy criminal who serves as a de facto narrator, unfolding a layered story in which a whole lotta criminal types cross and double-cross each other over money. Specifically, weed money, which is pretty topical as the game goes increasingly legal.

It’s often a lot of fun to see Ritchie being Ritchie, as British as a pickled egg in a pub, with a cast including Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians” and Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey.”

The sum of the parts doesn’t add up to the potential on paper, unfortunately. Ritchie being Ritchie shows that he’s self-indulgent in ways that prove he’ll never be a Scorcese or a Tarantino.

But for a January movie? Not bad.

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3 stars out of 5

"The Gentlemen"