Guy Ritchie’s latest movie aims to spoil us rotten. Toff Guys promises fans of the filmmaker’s original crime comedy schtick that his classic gritty sardonic wit will return in full force. This comes after numerous attempts at Hollywood blockbuster glory in the last decade. Now that the first inklings of Toff Guys’ phenomenal cast have coalesced, we have even more reason to celebrate.
Miramax has confirmed that Matthew McConaughey, Kate Beckinsale, and Henry Golding will star in Toff Guys. McConaughey is set to headline as an “inside outsider” within the film’s gangland plot. Of course, Ritchie’s sprawling ensembles are frequently fascinating and unique regardless of leading man status. Hence, Beckinsale and Golding — whose roles are currently unknown — will definitely have their work cut out for them anyway.
In Toff Guys, old money meets the highly-profitable modern-day marijuana industry head-on. The film focuses on an English drug lord who aims to rustle up a deal for his lucrative illicit enterprise with some Oklahoma billionaires (one of whom will be depicted by McConaughey). Hilarious chaos can then expectedly ensue.
Ritchie notably wrote the screenplay for Toff Guys alongside past collaborators Marn Davies and Ivan Atkinson. Moreover, Toff Guys marks Ritchie’s first original story since 2008’s RocknRolla. And as we’ve previously established, there’s an expectation that the movie will blend the sensibilities of Sexy Beast and Downton Abbey into a freshly deviant avenue for Ritchie, as well.
Ritchie’s movies are often infectiously fun even if they don’t totally hit home with critics. Yes, even King Arthur has its charms, and I’m personally one of those fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. who keeps hoping that a sequel will really come to fruition. All of Ritchie’s films adopt a freneticism that’s tough to keep pace with, but they work particularly well when paired with his proclivity for style and the fact that the director never misses a beat when landing the right performers for the job.
The best Ritchie protagonists are rough around the edges, which McConaughey proves ideal for across a number of his projects. Especially in the years following the McConaissance, the actor best-known for True Detective, Mud, Interstellar, and The Dallas Buyers Club – the latter of which earned him an Academy Award – has fashioned himself into a dramatic powerhouse. But there’s a reason “alright, alright, alright” from Dazed and Confused became McConaughey’s catchphrase. His comedic tendencies are both subtle and spot-on, and especially suitable for dark comedy.
McConaughey dips his toes into the genre every now and then but doesn’t do so nearly often enough. His reunion with Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater on the 2011 black comedy Bernie is absolutely heaven-sent. McConaughey’s minor but memorable chest-thumping role in The Wolf of Wall Street exemplifies the understated way he injects ridiculousness into the film’s already-bizarre proceedings.
Considering how much we don’t get to see McConaughey as a funnyman, all the better for us that he loves working with auteurs and otherwise recognizable filmmakers. While he has Harmony Korine’s undoubtedly provocative The Beach Bum knocking about in post-production right now, getting to work in Ritchie’s intensely entertaining onscreen universe should be another perfect comedic avenue for him.
Meanwhile, Beckinsale found mainstream success with the action horror flick Underworld, which was popular enough to spawn four sequels. Although bound by a generic vampire story, Beckinsale demonstrates an icy and captivating gravitas that grounds the Underworld series in something other than aesthetics. She would go on to star in more action fare including Van Helsing, Contraband, and the Total Recall remake. Unfortunately, none of them are actually particularly engaging.
Regardless, Beckinsale does have hidden – or rather, criminally underused – comedic talents, too. Granted, not all funny movies have served her well. She once starred in the Adam Sandler slog Click and couldn’t altogether save the less-than-stellar Monty Python reunion Absolutely Anything (even with Simon Pegg and the rest of the Pythons alongside).
Nevertheless, Beckinsale’s comedic chops are tried and true, first blossomed during her time doing period costume productions. Cold Comfort Farm is an early gem in Beckinsale’s filmography filled with charisma and idiosyncrasies that hilariously jab at gloomy rural fiction. That same fiery spirit that Beckinsale embodies in Cold Comfort Farm is then brought back to life over 20 years later in Love & Friendship. She certainly trades her initial earnestness for wry self-importance, though. There is just so much glee in her anti-heroine portrayal in the latter film.
Beckinsale lights up the big screen with the right material and is versatile enough to tackle different facets of the comedy genre. The ball is in Ritchie’s court to do her justice.
Finally, Golding showcases a keenness to challenge our ongoing perception of him as the romantic lead of our time, even if he’s still chasing highly stylized films. Furthermore, the world has thus far only seen Golding in distinctly Americanized fare despite his English roots, although Toff Guys is certainly primed to change that. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are still staples in British cinema, and RocknRolla is magnetic if familiar.
It frankly doesn’t even really matter who Golding ends up playing in Toff Guys. The bottom line is that the polished image he has built up since the release of Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor could very well be in our rearview once the bloody kinetic energy of a quintessential Ritchie film kicks into gear. That’s precisely the kind of career changeover that any up-and-coming actor ought to make.
Toff Guys may be a solid throwback to Ritchie’s oeuvre of old, but as it presently boasts a cast that feels simultaneously comforting and eccentric enough to intrigue, the project is off to a very auspicious start.