The Nice Guys Review
A SOLID 70’S DETECTIVE CAPPER
During the 1970s, the movie industry saw a plethora of neo-noir films. More often than not, these movies were often cop / detective features that spoke and adhere to the decade’s look, feel, and style. In general terms that’s the classification for genre of films, but movie buffs and film critics would often say that this genre is more of a heist movie of suspense thriller. Whatever the classification is called, such famous 70’s movies of this genre, include Dirty Harry, Get Carter, Across 110th Street, The Long Goodbye, Magnum Force, and many others. Now, Warner Bros. Pictures and director Shane Black, bring the 70’s neo-noir feel to present day moviegoers with the movie The Nice Guys. Does this throwback feature deliver or does it feels “out of place” in amongst current and modern movies?
In Los Angeles (circa 1977), porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) has been murdered, with her unexpected death and the details the surrounding it causes a stir around the city. Holland March (Ryan Gosling), is a deadbeat private detective, who is working the case of Amelia (Margaret Qualley), a missing young woman who’s caught in a sensitive situation, assumed by some, while spotted alive and well. Throwing into the mix is Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a ruthless hitman enforcer who also finds himself looking for Amelia, requiring him to team up with Holland to help retrieve their missing person. Visiting the adult film underworld of LA, Holland and Jackson become a team, questioning suspects and gathering clues, while learning more about each other. Aiding them is Holland’s pre-teen daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), worming her way into their investigation as they encounter a professional hitman John Boy (Matt Bomer), thug henchmen (Beau Knapp and Keith David), and Amelia’s high profile mother, Judith (Kim Basinger), inching ever closer to finding Amelia and the link that she shares with Misty Mountains.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Well, I back myself into a corner with that opening paragraph. I know of all those movies I mentioned above (through word of mouth to those who like this genre), but, unfortunately, I have never watched them. I’ve seeing bits and pieces of Dirty Harry and the parody riffing on these style of films on TV and other movies, but I haven’t actually personally sat down and watch a complete movie. I know, I know and I call myself a movie enthusiast. One day, when I have free time, I’ll spend the better part of a day and watch several of them. Who knows…maybe even do a review on them (that would be something). Amway (moving on), I remember seeing the trailer for The Nice Guys in theaters and (in actuality), I wasn’t impressed with it, believing that I wouldn’t like it and discarded it from my movie list. However, after hearing a lot of good things about the movie from advance reviews (something that I usually do try to avoid), I decided to see the movie. What did I think of it? In truth, I actually really liked The Nice Guys. And here’s why.
The Nice Guys is directed by Shane Black. Black, who is known for writing the screenplay for Lethal Weapon and the Long Kiss Goodnight as well as directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 seems to create a “throwback” movie to neo-noir films and, for most part, he succeeds. The film’s narrative, which was scripted by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, plays with a variety of elements as the movie (as well as its character) winding their way through LA in search for Amelia and the bigger mystery at play. In truth, The Nice Guys kind of sort feel like a Quentin Tarantino movie-at-play, blending drama with some sadistic / dark humor and some broad physical comedy. If you fan of Tarantino, then you’ll love this movie.
Perhaps the only criticism I have for this movie is that, since the movie is geared towards being a “throwback” film, a lot of the plot’s twists and turns that are meant to be exciting and new aren’t. This it comes somewhat predictable to see where the movie goes, especially the detective / buddy cop angle. In addition, the movie’s characters are thinly written because of that. However, the film makes up for it due to the performances by its cast (more on that below). Still, beyond that, The Nice Guys is indeed a breezy and entertaining movie to watch, a refreshing feature film to break up the over-saturation of recent Hollywood genres (i.e. the superhero genre).
In the way of how it all looks and feels, (aesthetically speaking), The Nice Guys is spot on, with its intended target of 1970s Los Angeles. The clothing, the hairstyle, the makeup, set design, the music, even the backdrop setting of LA feels authentic and helps drive the story (in terms of believing its designated time period. In addition, the movie has that “wine, women, and song” feel, with the depiction of the underworld of adult films / pornos of that age that also is part of the central narrative thread throughout the movie.
While I mentioned above that the film’s characterization of its character is not exactly filled with rich-in-depth backstories, the really joy is what watching the actors who played, which ultimately elevates that the characters themselves and the movie as well. This is notable seeing through the film’s two central characters played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Crowe is effective as the burly and mostly cynical Jackson Healy, playing the role as the straight man, who lives by his own code. Opposite Crowe’s Jackson is Gosling’s Holland, who, like his co-star, feels comfortable in the role as the worn-out and bumbling investigator. Its also is somewhat refreshing to see Gosling in a more comedic role. Together, both are effective, sharing some great on-screen “buddy cop” chemistry with each other. The pair plays off one another with ease and helps interject scenes of comedy levity that are juxtapose with light-hearted action / drama scenes.
With Crow and Gosling leading the charge, they are aided by their supporting cast. Probably the biggest supporting cast member is the youngest, found in Angourie Rice as Holly, Holland’s daughter. Her character is a poignant one in the movie as she is, of course, Holland’s daughter and is a sort of “tasked keeper” for her disheveled father (keeping him afloat and on point), but also servers as Jackson’s newly formed conscience. Rice’s performances is also pretty good, keeping up with Crowe and Gosling’s acting roles with equal “tit-for-tat” banter amongst the three of them. Beyond Rice, the rest of the cast is played by talented individuals. This includes Margaret Qualley as the “missing” person of interest (Amelia), Kim Basinger as Amelia’s mother, Judith Kuttner, Keith David and Beau Knapp as the thug goons (oddly given non-descriptive names “Old Guy” and “Blueface), and Matt Bomer as the deadly hit-man, John Boy. Like Crowe and Gosling’s characters, these roles are elevated by the actor or actress playing them, even though they are playing a somewhat stereotypical character in similar narratives, but all are important to the movie’s mystery. So, in the end, it all balances out.
Music, sex, guns, and the styles of 70s collide together in the entertaining detective capper The Nice Guys. Black’s latest film does indeed keep the spirt neo-noir film alive, presenting a feature that’s clever and funny as well as entertain. Sure, there are some problems with the movie, but, for the most part, The Nice Guys is highly enjoyable buddy cop romp through the streets of 1970s LA, especially thanks to a tight script and to its two main leads. Like I said above, I really did like this movie and would highly recommend it to my viewers and to moviegoers everywhere. If you’re looking for something different and a change of pace from the standard summer movie lineup by Hollywood, then The Nice Guys is the perfect movie for you.
4.2 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: May 20th, 2016
Reviewed On: May 25th, 2016
The Nice Guys is rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use