'The Gentlemen,' streaming, Netflix

NEW YORK (OSV News) – Can an aristocratic lifestyle and a secret narcotics business mix? According to both his eponymous 2020 film and its current small-screen variation, "The Gentlemen," showrunner Guy Ritchie thinks they can. The series, comprising eight hour-long episodes, is streaming now on Netflix.

Although he has been known to stray from the formula, many of Ritchie's productions involve a familiar recipe. He tends to populate an underworld milieu with eccentric characters exchanging sharp -- but also sometimes comically dumb -- dialogue. Additionally, he's not shy about graphic depictions of violence.

Nonetheless, although Ritchie's projects tend to be edgy, sometimes the mayhem is kept sufficiently under wraps for viewers to be able to appreciate the more acceptable elements incorporated into his work. That was the case, for instance, with last year's humorous espionage movie "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre."

Unfortunately, along with a few moments of intense gory violence, his latest production comes burdened with a diffuse plot and an overall feeling of slackness. More significantly, it also contains a treatment of Christian faith that plays fast and loose with religious sensibilities.

Theo James plays coolheaded United Nations peacekeeping officer Eddie Horniman. The younger son of a duke, Eddie is summoned home from his duties in the Middle East to be present at the deathbed of his elderly father, Archibald (Edward Fox).

At the subsequent reading of the will, Eddie is surprised to learn that he and not his older brother, Freddy (Daniel Ings), is to be the heir both to Dad's title and to the family's vast estate. Two other revelations follow in short order.

First, Eddie discovers that selfish nitwit Freddy, a cocaine addict with a fondness for gambling, owes millions to a ruthless gangster. Second, he's informed by Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario), the daughter of a different kingpin, that her criminal clan has, for years, been using tunnels under the grounds of the Horniman's stately home to run a huge cannabis growing operation.

Since his share of the profits from this enterprise constituted the late duke's primary source of income, his successor finds himself in a quandary. The only way to get Freddie out of his potentially fatal jam, it seems, is for Eddie to go on cooperating with Susie and her imprisoned pa, Bobby (Ray Winstone), and see if they'll help raise the necessary funds in the short term.

Numerous complications follow, including the interest Stanley Johnston (Giancarlo Esposito), a suave but initially mysterious billionaire, takes in purchasing the property Eddie has just inherited. Freddie, meanwhile, goes on getting himself into ever deeper trouble.John Dixon (Pearce Quigley), the mob boss to whom Freddy is in debt, turns out to be a pseudo-religious fanatic nicknamed The Gospel. He spouts scripture verses while his minions torture and kill opponents but also, paradoxically, runs some kind of a faith-based recovery program.

Over the two installments viewed, this portion of the plot isn't used to attack religion. Dixon is clearly portrayed as deranged and his use of Biblical imagery is just so much twisted hypocrisy.

Still, if the tone of the scenes in which Dixon features are not sacrilegious, they're not exactly respectful either. Ritchie and his co-writer for these episodes, Matthew Read, trivialize the sacred and make use of it for their own ends.

Along with the pervasive off-color language employed to reinforce the rough-grained nature of the proceedings, this dubious harnessing of Christian material to putatively comic effect should give even adult TV fans pause. All the more so since, in purely dramatic terms, "The Gentlemen" pays very modest dividends.- - - John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.