Cert 18 113mins Stars 4

Director Guy Ritchie is bristling with verve and invention as he returns to his old stomping ground of the London crime caper and delivers a wickedly self-aware, funny and violent assault with hugely entertaining results.

A top drawer cast give top tier performances as Matthew McConaughey’s leonine drug dealer sees blackmail and betrayal thwart his plans to go straight, and his WAGish cockney wife is not best pleased.

Michelle Dockery is best known as Lady Mary from TV’s Downton Abbey, but cast against type shows what how terrifically versatile and entertaining she can be.

Raising his game to deliver a career best turn is TV’s Charlie Hunnam, who as McConaughey’s fixer, spends most of the film playing the straight man to the flirtatious Hugh Grant, who gives the latest his a line of genius light comic performances.

He plays a slimy private investigator and wannabe film writer who passes comment on the action while leading the audience on a merry dance as to what’s really going on.

Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong and Eddie Marsan offer strong support, and Colin Farrell demonstrates what a great comic actor he is.

Handsome visuals and great locations give this an hard-edged gloss, and the smart title sequence suggests Ritchie hasn’t given up on one day getting the James Bond directing gig.

After successfully steering Disney’s live action Aladdin to over a billion dollars at the box office, this could have been a dispiriting return to his comfort zone, instead he seems invigorated.

Rather than rein himself, Ritchie unleashes his fury on the world with this provocative, defiant, knowingly absurd and foul-mouthed romp, an uproarious exercise in unloading his personal demons which goes beyond indulgent and turns into an act of filmmaking-as-therapy.

This is Guy Ritchie on steroids, and even his plot which shows his clear hatred of the UK press didn’t stop me from enjoying The Gentlemen enormously.