The Nice Guys

Posted: June 10, 2016 in Film reviews
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Directed by Shane Black. Starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.

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Its LA in 1977 and sleazy Private Investigator Holland March (Gosling) has been hired to find a young woman named Amelia. Unfortunately Amelia doesn’t want to be found and so she hires enforcer  Jackson Healy (Crowe) to scare March off, which he does by going round to March’s house and beating him up before breaking his arm.

Later however Healy is accosted in his home by two armed men who are also looking for Amelia. Realising the young woman might be in danger Healy goes back to March and hires him to help him find Amelia. In their search, aided by March’s 13 year old daughter Holly (a just the right side of annoying-kid performance from Angourie Rice), they explore the seedy world of porno films until the two quickly realise something bigger is at stake, and eventually their paths cross that of a high-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice; Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger) who also happens to be Amelia’s mother.

As the stakes grow higher and the conspiracy expands can a pair of two bit losers emerge victorious, and more importantly can two men who aren’t nice prove they’re better than they think they are?

 

Perhaps the first thing to say about The Nice Guys is that there’s a certain element of familiarity to the story, and more importantly the characters. Shane Black has been writing in Hollywood since the late 80s, and few writers are better at the mismatched buddy cop (or not cop) duo than him. So this film shares more than a passing similarity with Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black loves nothing better than putting two men with little in common together and having them bond over some witty banter and some mindless violence. Often as not one or both of the men will be broken in some way, either emotionally or physically, or sometimes just ground down by a crappy life, but they’ll have a kernel of nobility that means, however scuzzy they might be, you want to root for them. Now sometimes familiarity breeds contempt, but sometimes familiarity is a warm fuzzy blanket you wrap yourself in whilst you laugh yourself silly.

So perhaps the second thing to say about The Nice Guys is that I spent most of the film laughing myself silly.

The script, co-written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, is excellent, seamlessly melding pulp dialogue with witty banter, and Black, as he proved with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, knows how to direct, but what makes the film are the leads. Gosling and Crowe are brilliant in roles you wouldn’t necessarily have pegged them for. As Healy Crowe has let himself go to portray an out of shape guy, but still manages to make him both menacing and engaging. He’s not a man you’d want to cross, but he has a code of honour and you can see in his eyes every time he thinks no one is looking that Healy is a man desperate for redemption, desperate to be a nice guy. Just as good is Gosling as March, a seedy ex-cop with a drink problem and a habit of ripping off his clients, yet who still manages to come across like a decent man and a decent father and who has a wonderfully girlish shriek every time he’s in danger. Both Crowe and Gosling’s comic timing is spot on and they bounce well off both each other, and off Rice—and it has to be said, Black has a real knack for finding young actors who can be engaging and not annoying.

The 70s’ look is evocative, aided by great costumes, great set design and a wonderfully wakka-wakka soundtrack. There are some nicely choreographed fights and some great action setpieces.

It’s a bit too long, and it would have been nice to see Basinger’s role be a bit bigger. It is very much a Shane Black film and if you’ve not liked his other work it’s doubtful you’re going to love this, but for me it was an absolute hoot, and I’m still laughing now at the best Hitler joke I’ve heard in years.

Great performances, great script, pretty much great everything. They say nice guys finish last but not in this case, so go and watch it…before I have to send Russell Crowe round to beat you up!

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Ryan Gosling was not happy to discover he was out of toilet paper

 

 

 

 

 

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