STARRING: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Murielle Telio, Keith David, Kim Basinger, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Ty Simpkins, Jack Kilmer, Hannibal Buress and Lois Smith
A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.
The Nice Guys takes us to 1977 Los Angeles where we follow single father and licensed private investigator, Holland March, being hired by the aunt of a famous porn star named Misty Mountains to find her niece whom she persistently believes is alive, even though she died earlier in the week. March accepts the job which leads to him to tracking down a girl named Amelia, which puts him on a path with enforcer Jackson Healy, who is hired by Amelia to intimidate Holland to stay away from her. Healy learns that Amelia has disappeared and that March isn’t the only party interested in her whereabouts and the two of them team up to find Amelia before the thugs do.
The Nice Guys is the third directorial feature from Shane which has him go back to his roots of his directorial debut (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) rather than the superhero film that divided audiences back in 2013 which average film viewers might only know his name due to it (Iron Man 3). Shane Black has written some of my favourite films growing up (the Lethal Weapon films, The Last Boy Scout) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a stone cold classic in my opinion and watch that at least four times a year, especially during the Christmas season. So The Nice Guys had me hooked with anticipation as soon as it was announced moving forward with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling attached. I just hoped for it to be half as good as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to be satisfied with Black’s execution….I certainly got my moneys worth.
Shane Black manages to treat us to traits we’ve come to expect from him, the oddball pairing to solve a mystery, the guy that plays tough though wants to be known for being good, the other guy that’s lost his love and his sense of purpose moving on with that outside of looking after their daughter and then there’s a Christmas scene….it’s small but its there just to remind you who is behind this film. The chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is electric and their back and forth with the sharp dialogue penned by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is in certain moments an absolute joy to watch. Jackson Healy is a role that Crowe could literally play in his sleep but he puts heart into the role, particularly in his interactions with Holland’s daughter Holly. Ryan Gosling….for anyone that has bashed him for his performances in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive/Only God Forgives and Gangster Squad especially, if you don’t enjoy his performance here I honestly don’t know what to tell you. Gosling at times is an absolute scene stealer as Holland March, he always had the quip to time his lines right which was hinted at appearing in the comedy Crazy Stupid Love and here he gets to show his physical comedy as well which I thought he done great with. Black used a young kid actor in Iron Man 3 which had some of the best moments in terms of comedy (which sees Ty Simpkins appear here in the opening scene) and make no mistake about it, Angourie Rice will be seen to most as the highlight performer and with good reason. Rice shines as Holland’s daughter Holly, who literally acts like the parent to her father since she lost her mother and picks up the detective skills from him as well as Jackson Healy when he arrives on the scene. Rice is building quite a CV already with this and her role in These Final Hours, it will be interesting to see what road she takes in the future. At times the comedy killed me, which in typical Black style involves getting rid of a dead body, one scene involving a peaceful protest and also one that will appear random in text form until you see the film…President Nixon. It is such a small moment that comes out of left field that it had me in stitches.
While I had a great time at the cinema watching The Nice Guys, I will admit that the antagonists are a bit light even by Shane Black’s standards of what came before. The villainous roles are well performed, particularly the duo of Beau Knapp and Keith David, with the latter having an arc against Crowe’s Healy and though I was disappointed in terms of screen time for Kim Basinger, it did give us a nice L.A Confidential reunion between her and Crowe. While Matt Bomer’s John Boy is a name that’s mentioned to foreshadow his introduction for when it comes, it does feel that it arrives too late as we have Crowe and Gosling moving from scene to scene in which some of it leads nowhere in terms of plot but serves more as character building of their friendship. The ending, in terms of how the story is resolved, works well within the narrative and yet feels anti-climatic in my eyes, maybe it’s because I was awaiting to have the nice resolution with a little bow (ala Last Boy Scout/Lethal Weapon) but again it works within the story.
If you go in expecting Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2.0 I feel that you may feel disappointed with this film. It certainly has a similar feel in terms of witty dialogue and direction, but you’ll be completely sucked into the world of The Nice Guys with the terrific chemistry with its core characters played by Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Angourie Rice. The villainous characters may feel weak but the comedy moments and character interactions are the films strength which makes up for that if you go in looking for a buddy-comedy. 8/10