The Nice Guys

'The Nice Guys' movie poster

Release: Friday, May 20, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Shane Black; Anthony Bagarozzi

Directed by: Shane Black

Well, they’re not quite Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but The Nice Guys squeak in at a close second, offering up liberal doses of hilarity and action that’s more fun than perhaps it ought to be. Which just leaves Iron Man 3, screenwriter Shane Black’s only other directorial credit, coming in at a relatively distant third.

To Black’s debut crime comedy The Nice Guys owes a great deal, not least of which being the awkward disposal of a corpse, a neon-lit film noir tilt, and the constant banter and infectious chemistry between its starring duo — in this case, Ryan Gosling and hey, what’s this, Russell Crowe? That’s right. Crowe does indeed have a funny bone in his body, and it’s a big one.

Los Angeles in the 1970s. Porn stars and private eyes. Privatized businesses colluding. Birds choking on polluted air. Two private investigators stumble into a possible murder/suicide plot involving a once-prominent female porn star (Murielle Telio), who may or may not be one in a string of victims associated with the shady production and distribution of a new skin flick. When surly, prone-to-violence Jackson Healy (Crowe) discovers there’s another detective trying to get his beak wet on the action, he requests that Holland March (Ryan Gosling) cease and desist . . . by snapping his arm. (As any self-respecting P.I. must.)

It’s a classic case of the odd couple and, despite the familiar blueprint, what follows proves to be among the crème de la crème of the buddy-cop genre. Holland, a single father whose precocious teen daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) consistently calls him out on his bullshit, has the slick suit and a nice house — one he claims they’re just renting while he rebuilds the old one that burned down — and a solid(-ish) reputation around town to lose if this investigation goes south. Jack Healy, on the other hand, is considerably less mannered (and less licensed), towing a fine line between bad guy and misunderstood loner. In short, they make for two equally compelling characters, both destined for a redemption of sorts, that make the occasionally tedious two-hour runtime all worthwhile.

The Nice Guys is moulded by classic buddy cop comedies of old — the likes of detectives Riggs and Murtaugh aren’t very deeply buried inside this nostalgic throwback to the ’70s.  But it also functions effectively as a period piece. The milieu is undeniably retro, though seeing is only part of the believing here. Catch yourself grooving to a pop/funk-infused soundtrack featuring the likes of The Bee Gees, The Temptations and a wonderfully timed Earth, Wind & Fire classic while the sporadic placement of movie titles that would go on to define the decade entrench us further in times that will never be again.

It’s only around the hour-and-forty-minute mark we experience a lull in between major action/comedic set pieces, the best of them all arguably lying in wait at the very end. But even during the slower moments the young Rice provides a welcomed respite from all the foolish antics that pervade. Here’s a character well worth embracing if not for her intelligence then for her morality: “If you kill that man, Jack, I will never speak to you again.” She’s talking, of course, about the primary antagonist of the film, Matt Bomer’s suitably psycho John Boy, a man who has a vested interest in retrieving the film reel her father and Healy are after (but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking). Rice’s character is something of a role model for young girls, offering up a performance that is all too rare in these kinds of movies. She is absolutely fantastic.

The farce occasionally borders on cartoonish, but then again Black always seems to teeter on the edge of self-parody. Playing it fast and loose works so well for him, and it certainly works well for the two leads. Using this as a barometer, the summer slate has a lot to live up to in terms of delivering pure escapist entertainment.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 12.17.55 AM

Recommendation: Gleefully farcical and profane in equal measure, The Nice Guys will best serve fans of Shane Black’s brand of comedy. It recalls the spirit of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang while managing to separate itself just enough. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “I think I’m invincible . . . I don’t think I can die!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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26 thoughts on “The Nice Guys

  1. Just caught this mate, I laughed a ton, though I think I liked it just a little less than you, but still, great escapist entertainment. Blue Face was my favourite character 😀

    The bizarre plot reminded me more than once of the Coens too. And it had so much going on that I feel like seeing it again

    I have never heard of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but if its anything like this then I gotta watch it.

    • Whoops! Another comment caught in the backlog.

      It really delivers man. Shane Black as a writer is on fine form and the performances are universally great. I really had a great time with this.

    • They really make this movie what it is. But Angourie Rice can’t be overlooked either, she’s superb as the precocious teen daughter. I am going to have trouble finding a more simply entertaining movie this summer, despite how great the new X-Men movie looks. This really challenged Civil War for me in terms of pure escapist entertainment.

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  3. Yay! When I watched the trailer for this a while ago and saw who was involved, it looked like it had potential, and I figured it may well be worth a watch. Glad to see you enjoyed it so much and will definitely keep my eyes open for it!

    • Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make for a hilarious pair. They’re worth the price of admission.

  4. I’m in complete agreement with you that Angourie Rice is fantastic. So much so that I question whether the narrative might have been better served as a father-daughter crime fighting team. Crowe is a good partner for Gosling but Rice is better.

    Incidentally, Crowe has tried comedy before. “Mystery, Alaska” and “A Good Year” come to mind, but granted neither was very memorable.

    • Yeah I was trying to find titles in his filmography that looked like they were comedies. I must have looked right past Mystery, Alaska and A Good Year.

  5. I need to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
    I think you said it best with escapist fun. In my piece, I made a point to say that this is counterprogramming, but honestly, its as blockbustery as you could get without all of the spectacle. Man, what a great time with this.

    • Yes. Yes you do need to see KKBB. Freaking classic in my book! I’ll be on over soon to get your take on this

  6. Great review mate! I’m so jealous that you’ve seen this already, the trailers to this cracked me up. I can’t wait, and you’ve got me even more excited.

    • Yeah I thought the trailers (the red band ones anyway) were excellent. Best of all, they don’t give away all the best parts. Something of a rarity these days. . .

      Glad I could amp up your anticipation for it. Hope I haven’t over-sold it. 🙂

      • Oh I was already reeeally looking forward to it. Those early trailers where they are being interviewed by the blond lady, god that was funny. Gosling and Crowe have such chemistry together!! And I’m very keen to see big Russ in a comic role

  7. Happy to see this getting a good review. When I first caught the trailer I laughed a few times and have been looking forward to it ever since. Loved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I’m glad to see it compared favourably with that film.

    • It’s a wild and fun ride, enjoyable from beginning to end. I think Kiss Kiss Bang Bang had a more memorable, unpredictable story (from what I can recall, I really should have watched it before going into this to get a refresher). But this one benefits greatly from Gosling and Crowe’s constant back-and-forth. I had a lot of fun, I have to say.

    • I hope you get a lot out of it like I did. The trailers had me sold right away, despite my skepticism that this would be a cheap riff on KKBB. Turns out it is pretty similar but there’s enough here to justify the difference.

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