Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Lois Smith, and Kim Basinger
Synopsis: A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
While the official synopsis doesn’t really give you a good sense of what the film is about, The Nice Guys is a film that has a lot more going on than you would think. Not only that, it’s directed by Shane Black, who has his own style of humor and directing and the film is oozing with it in every scene. So while the description may not pull you in, Black and the cast make the film so much fun to watch.
Set in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys follows Jackson Healy (Crowe), a hired enforcer, and a private eye Holland March (Gosling), who work together to investigate a case that involves a dead porn star named Misty Mountains – it’s the 70s remember – and the odd connection that it has with Amelia (Qualley), the daughter of a powerful political figure that works at the States Department in Judith Kuttner (Basinger). What follows is a murder mystery with black humor and high jinks that not only takes the characters, but us the audience, along a deep rabbit hole.
The film is labeled as a spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and while that may not mean anything to people that haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, if you have watched it, you’ll see the similarities right from the get-go. The characters in March and Healy aren’t great person. Healy beats people up for money and March is a private eye that’s down on his luck and will take advantage of his clients for the money. By default, they are our heroes of the film, but just because they aren’t the purest people in the world, it doesn’t mean they know what the right thing to do is. They both know they have to find Amelia and protect her. It’s the little things they do that make us root for them.
It also helps March and Healy are played by Gosling and Crowe. The two have unbelievable chemistry together and elevate not only the film, but Black and Bagarozzi’s script. Crowe delivers his lines with a perfect deadpan demeanor and Gosling is a bit more of the goof with great physical comedy, like the heavily promoted bathroom stale scene. Even if you don’t like the film itself, I think we can all agree that Gosling and Crowe are perfect in their roles. However, someone who holds their own against these two stars is Angourie Rice, who plays Holly, March’s daughter. Holly is the conscience and moral compass for the characters and the film too you can arguably say.
The other big players fall just a bit flat for me. Kim Basinger doesn’t have that much screen time, and she doesn’t pop in until the middle of the film. Keith David and Keanu Knapp play two guys who are after Amelia, who pop in-and-out through the film but interact more with Crowe’s Healy than Gosling’s March. One of the weaker characters for me was Margaret Qualley’s Amelia. She plays such in an important role in getting March and Healy together, that when she finally has actual screen time – she spends most of the film in hiding – she doesn’t really impress too much. It’s nothing against Qualley, who does the best with what’s she’s given, but unfortunately, she’s not the best part of the film. Matt Bomer appears in the around the last act of the film, and while I won’t say who he plays, it’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t have more screen time because he’s a great character that could have been awesome to watch more of.
All in all, The Nice Guys is a great action comedy mystery noir thriller. Yes, it’s all those things, and Shane Black makes it work smoothly with his great cast of Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice. The black comedy aspect works so well here and for the characters that we are introduced to. The film does lag for a bit, but the characters and chemistry between keeps those lagging moments to a minimum. The Nice Guys may not be for everyone, but it sure is a hell of a ride.
The Nice Guys
4 out of 5