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Snake Bytes 4/4: A Shut-In Find

Stealing a page from Jim’s book, there will be a slight diversion through movie review territory.

One Future Ace for Each NL West Team

I don’t think that Zac Gallen’s appearance as representing the Diamondbacks on this list will surprise much of anyone.

All-Time ROY Team

So, what does your lineup look like if you populate the roster with ROY winners from throughout baseball history?

Unsurprisingly, there is little in the way of new baseball news for Saturday consumption. I suspect that this will continue to be the case at least through the end of April. As we all get closer to the current May 10th date for the resumption of activities, there will likely be much more written, speculating on when and how baseball will resume. Until then, we all just need to find a different way to fill the many baseball free hours we suddenly have on our hands.

For me, the time has largely been filled by reading and a small bit of writing. If I could bring myself to be more of a taskmaster, I would be getting a bit more housework done and the writing would outweigh the reading. As it is though, I’m trying to stay as stress-free as possible during these hard times. That means a bit less work and a bit more relaxing. Although I have increased the amount of reading I have been doing, I still have found myself digesting more cinema and television than usual as well, primarily in the middle of the day when my mind is wanting some downtime. I’ve revisited a few old classics and personal favorites. I have checked out a couple truly “bad” films of the “wish they rose to the level of B-film” variety because, well, I actually tend to find enjoyment in those Ed Wood trainwrecks. Then, I’ve also checked out a few recent films, including some that may or may not have ever made my radar. One of those that I recently enjoyed was the 2020 film, The Gentlemen.

The Gentlemen was just released in theatres earlier this year. I suspect it came and went with little fanfare because the world was busy going to hell in a handbasket. If it wasn’t the Trump impeachment coverage taking up airtime, it was coverage of the coming pandemic. With those sorts of topics clogging the airwaves, it isn’t hard to see how this excellent film garnered little exposure.

Unlike a few films that still managed to get some coverage, this is most definitely not a family film. This is an R-rated romp starring Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant. While the cast alone makes it intriguing, there is something more. It is directed by Guy Ritchie. But this is not your typical Guy Ritchie film of the last decade or so. No, this is a return to Ritchie’s pre-Madonna days. This is a movie that feels like it belongs alongside two of his early works; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the always enjoyable Snatch.

Anyone familiar with those two earlier Ritchie works already has some idea of what to expect. This is a violent English drama filled with enough dark humor to prevent anyone (the actors included) from taking the film seriously. The central figure in this film is McConaughey’s American expat, Michael “Micky” Pearson, a poor American boy who arrived in England via a Rhodes Scholarship and turned his sizable brain to growing the best marijuana to be found in the country. Through his keen intellect and no small amount of violence, he establishes himself as the kingpin of the industry. Now, he wants to get out of the game. This is the story of the events spiraling out of his decision to get out of the game.

Charlie Hunnam turns in possibly his best body of work since the early days of Sons of Anarchy and also probably his best overall performance on the big screen to date. He plays Micky’s loyal and capable right-hand man, Raymond, who has a penchant for wagyu beef. It’s a good thing Hunnam brought his A-game as he spends a good portion of the film in an ongoing scene opposite Hugh Grant turning in the sort of performance that made him one of the leading men in Hollywood - once upon a time. Grant absolutely chews the scenery to pieces playing the role of opportunistic muckraker, Fletcher, who has decided to blackmail England’s drug royalty (including Micky) as a path to comfortable retirement.

Not to be overlooked, Michelle Dockery turns in a delicious performance as Micky’s woman behind the throne wife, Rosalind. She is Micky’s guiding star - and his one weakness. If you piss her off, make sure she doesn’t have a paperweight handy.

The story that ultimately unfolds is a fairly straightforward one. But, in typical vintage Ritchie fashion, the path from point A to point B is filled with a number of darkly humorous twists and turns. The film opens in very typical Ritchie fashion. Micky enters a pub and orders a pint and a pickled egg. He sits down to enjoy the pairing while speaking to his wife on the phone. While he is talking with her, the audience sees a man with a gun coming up behind Micky. Something he hears on the phone bothers Micky but, before he can come to grips with what is going on, the audience hears a gunshot and blood splatters all over Micky’s pint. This brief scene sets up the framework for most of the rest of the story as the film then cuts away to Grant’s Fletcher emerging from the shadows in Raymond’s house to confront him with blackmail demands based on a story he has concocted (and turned into a movie script no less). He then sits Raymond down to lay out the story, which is, of course, the story of how we wound up in a bar with a hitman coming for Micky, the man whose inner monologue told us he saw himself as a king.

As stated earlier, this is not a family film. That, however, is one of its selling points. Despite a market that is increasingly being overrun by films designed to be viewable by as wide an audience as possible, Ritchie has crafted a film with a much narrower audience in mind. When there is violence, it is usually pretty raw while also being laced with some fairly dark humor. And, while there is enough to certainly classify this as a violent film, the instances of violence are far fewer in number than what one will find in most typical summer action films these days, especially of the Marvel variety. In this case though, the violence helps to tell the story, deftly leading the audience through the film rather than propelling them from one loud special effects-ridden clip to another. Not at all concerned with being appropriate for parents to take their young teen children to, the vulgar language in the movie abounds. Yet, every c-word and f-bomb feels appropriate to the character and the situation. These are, after all, drug lords and gangsters, despite the title and the facade they wear to fit into society.

While the story eventually plays out more or less as expected, there are just enough surprises intermixed to keep the audience from tuning out. Ritchie gets outstanding performances from his assembled cast, even in cases where they are playing entirely against type, such as with Grant. Had this film come out during a less chaotic time in the world, it would probably have garnered some decent critical reviews and possibly managed to do better at the box office. As it is, it came and went with barely anyone noticing, which is a shame, since it is a far superior piece of work than most of the other films released in theatres so far this year.

Overall grade: A-

The film was enjoyable and did exactly what it set out to do while doing it with style.