The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)
Or Mr. Murphy Goes To Washington, if you like.
Eddie Murphy stars as Thomas Jefferson Johnson in this mildly entertaining comedy about a fast-talking conman who lucks out when he realises that he can get himself a position in Congress. Washington is, in his eyes, the home of the biggest con of all and would provide him with more money than he could ever dream of. But how would a man ever get himself into such a position? Well, it’s easy enough when you share the same name as a popular politician who suddenly dies mid-coitus. Once he’s in amongst the politicians and the financiers, the conman starts to find that he has a conscience. While most of the people around him don’t.
The Distinguished Gentleman is good fun. It’s simple, fairly predictable and has more than it’s fair share of decent one-liners. The biggest thing against it is Eddie Murphy, a star who has a career path with more ups and downs than a bungee jumping addict. He can still do great stuff onscreen (I really enjoyed Dr. Dolittle and I Spy and Bowfinger is just a delight) but he can’t just slip back into the same wise-cracking punk character he used to be so great at playing. When he goes into full-on motormouth mode it just serves to remind viewers of past glories – 48 Hrs, Beverly Hills Cop & Trading Places.
Thankfully, the movie keeps things better than many of Murphy’s weaker efforts with the help of a great supporting cast and the fact that Murphy isn’t allowed to play every single character around him. Lane Smith, Joe Don Baker and Kevin McCarthy are particularly good as the professionals getting the most out of the system in Washington but Sheryl Lee Ralph is a lot of fun and Victoria Rowell makes for a nice enough potential love interest. Charles S. Dutton is as intimidating as ever and just as good to watch. Then there’s a small role for Chi McBride, someone I have been a fan of since I saw him in The Frighteners.
The script contains enough chuckles throughout to please fans while the direction from Jonathan Lynn is perfectly adequate, it keeps everything ticking over nicely and the film doesn’t really outstay its welcome. Those seeking a smart look at the political world and perhaps wanting something enjoyable satirical will have to look elsewhere because this is a much simpler film. It’s an “Eddie Murphy” film and that’s that. Thankfully, it’s an enjoyable Eddie Murphy film and fans of the man could do a lot worse than giving this one a watch.
DIRECTOR: JONATHAN LYNN
WRITER: MARTY KAPLAN
STARS: EDDIE MURPHY, LANE SMITH, VICTORIA ROWELL, KEVIN MCCARTHY, SHERYL LEE RALPH, JOE DON BAKER, CHARLES S. DUTTON, CHI MCBRIDE
RUNTIME: 112 MINS APPROX