HomeEntertainmentTheo James Charms in Guy Ritchie’s Exemplary Netflix Gangster Thriller ‘The Gentlemen’:...

Theo James Charms in Guy Ritchie’s Exemplary Netflix Gangster Thriller ‘The Gentlemen’: TV Review

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In aristocracies across the globe, rank and title are paramount. Set in the same world as his 2019 film of the same name, Guy Ritchie‘s new Netflix series, “The Gentlemen,” is a brilliant show about legacy, family and the thrills of self-discovery. While the TV show boasts a brand new cast of characters, the series’ concept focuses on a similar criminal underworld that Ritchie depicted in his film — no prior knowledge of the movie is necessary.

The series opens in Turkey with Army Captain Eddie Halstead (a stoically charming Theo James) and his team conducting checks at the Syrian border. Level-headed and generally affable, Eddie remains calm and collected when he’s abruptly called home amid news of his father’s declining health. Arriving at his family’s palatial estate, he greets his lovely mother, Lady Sabrina (Joely Richardson), his younger sister Charly (Jasmine Blackborow) and his notoriously coked-out hot mess of an older brother, Freddy (Daniel Ings), the would-be heir to the property and their father’s dukedom.

Unlike the British Royal family, these blue bloods make their own rules. Upon his father’s death, Eddie and the family learn that he, the spare, has inherited the title, the property and all of the headaches and privileges that come with being the first-born son. Unfortunately for Eddie, it’s not just Freddy’s substance-fueled meltdown he has to manage along with his new title. In the days following the reading of the will, he learns that the family’s 15,000 acres are also housing a sector of a massive cannabis empire under the purview of the incarcerated ​​Bobby Glass (Ray Winstone) and run by his daughter, the impeccably dressed and meticulously minded, Susie (Kaya Scodelario).

Forced to honor his dad’s agreement with the Glass family until he can calculate an exit strategy, Eddie encounters an array of erratic and absurd characters. From the cunning Stanley Johnston (Giancarlo Esposito), an American billionaire intent on purchasing the Halstead manor, to a volatile Liverpool-based crime organization run by a terrifying religious figure called The Gospel, nothing in Eddie’s military training could have prepared him for navigating Susie’s world. Still, despite the shootouts, betrayals and machete attacks, Eddie slowly realizes that living the gangster life might be an environment in which he thrives.

James’ performance as Eddie functions almost like that of a straight man. He is a pillar of zen amid constant madness, which is why “The Gentlemen” works so beautifully. Yet, as one managed challenge creates another, his balmy disposition morphs into something more sinister. Intrigued by Susie and her ability to get shit done and sustain a thriving cannabis business, the pair each have distinct ways of solving problems, but they find themselves interested in one another, even when suspicion colors the building chemistry between them.

Managing his family’s assets and the Glass’ interest is one thing, but Eddie also discovers he might not have the patience to keep his older brother in line. Eddie spends time and energy cleaning up Freddy’s hijinks and foolishness while trying to untangle himself from a world of criminality that continues to draw him in. The scorned heir’s hilariously grotesque shenanigans involving a chicken suit in the series opener, “Refined Aggression,” come back to bite the family in the ass in the finale, “The Gospel According to Bobby Glass,” nearly costing Eddie everything he’s worked to maintain. Though Freddy appears predestined to ruin everything Eddie tasks him with, the younger brother never stops protecting the older.

In addition to its absurd scenarios and copious amounts of unsavory characters, the stylization of “The Gentlemen” adds to the series’ fun and whimsy. From the picturesque settings and costuming to the use of written on-screen text that helps the audience keep varied deals, people and schemes outlined, the show unfolds like a dazzling web of turmoil, keeping viewers sucked in over its eight episodes.

Entertaining — with hijinks, plots and gory violence — “The Gentlemen” irons out the kinks that plagued its film predecessor, including some of the racist depictions, while adhering to Ritchie’s signature style. None of the show’s criminals are tethered to a high moral ground; they do what’s best for them and their respective enterprises, even if that means stabbing allies in the back. For Eddie, this means embracing the power of his sordid bloodline and leaning into a darkness he didn’t even know he possessed.

“The Gentlemen” premieres March 7 on Netflix.

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