Screenshot from 'The Gentlemen'

Screenshot from 'The Gentlemen'
Guy Ritchie's return to the gangster genre is being labeled as racist and out of date, but the triggered reviews suggest the proudly politically correct simply don't understand how art works.

We're only a week into 2020 and the PC-police are already on patrol for anything and everything that does not conform to their box checking standards.

The latest cultural target of this woke rage is Guy Ritchie's 'The Gentlemen', the director's return to the gangster genre after spending years making Hollywood blockbusters like 'Sherlock Holmes' and last year's 'Aladdin'.

In UK cinemas now and opening in US theaters on January 24, 'The Gentlemen' has been accused of being an "equal opportunity offender" and "stained with racism."

'The Gentlemen' follows a gangster (Matthew McConaughey) as he runs into trouble trying to sell off his profitable drug empire in order to retire with his wife.

Like Ritchie's early work, 'The Gentlemen' looks to be a ridiculous and fast-moving ensemble British crime movie with actors chewing the scenery.

Some critics are not amused though. It appears they believe Ritchie's signature brand is a bit outdated for these culturally bubble-wrapped times.

"Jews, women, the working class, gay people, black people, the entirety of East Asia — every imaginable demographic gets their moment to be targeted and denigrated. The only thing 'The Gentlemen' finds worth celebrating is the bravado of white masculinity," a review from the Independent reads. The writeup goes on to call 'The Gentlemen' Ritchie's "angriest" film and one "long past its sell-by date."

The primary example of the "racism" the review accuses the movie of lies with dialogue spoken by Fletcher, a tabloid newspaper employed character portrayed by actor Hugh Grant.

"Early on, he [Fletcher] introduces Henry Golding's Dry Eyes [character] as a 'Chinese, Japanese, Pekingese' Bond-type, before swapping the 'l' for an 'r' in the phrase 'licence to kill'. There's no doubt Ritchie intends for his audience to laugh here," the Independent's review states.

Reviews from The Guardian and several other outlets have targeted 'The Gentleman' over not only Grant's character, but other characters' dialogue in the movie, several direct hits on political correctness and the film's main characters mostly being white.

The criticism of 'The Gentlemen' has less to do with the film itself and more to do with the current issue in culture of people surrounding themselves more and more with the ever-changing woke standards promoted by keyboard-wielding social justice warriors. This leads them to lose sight of the nuance and complexities ingrained in storytelling.

Yes, yes, we are talking about a Guy Ritchie movie here (curse you, 2020, for making me think this much about a Guy Ritchie movie), but we are at the point where even a silly Guy Ritchie movie is flying straight over people's heads.

This should not have to be explained, but a character speaking dialogue in a movie is not the character's creator speaking dialogue. This is a separation these reviews don't recognize. They seem to want every character in every film to talk like a liberal arts professor. This is a flick about British gangsters, for crying out loud.

Stories are supposed to challenge and be layered, whether they are a goofy Guy Ritchie caper or a historical drama about car racing. Critics are moving away from absorbing films as stories and instead breaking the entire experience down to out-of-context facts and then using those facts to judge the film based on box checking liberalism.

Does the film have too many white people? Too many men? Are there enough speeches about social justice? Does the dialogue spoken by characters offend in any way?

If you fail any of those questions then your movie is in trouble in the media today.

Guy Ritchie's 'The Gentlemen' is not racist. It's the same sort of movie the director built his reputation on in the late '90s and early '00s with films like 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and 'Snatch'. The difference between those movies and his latest work is that in the 20 years that have passed, culture has been suffocated by puritanical liberals who are clueless about how art is meant to challenge and affect us.
Zachary Leeman is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture