The Nice Guys
Written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi
Directed by Shane Black
Cast – Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David and Kim Basinger
Running Time 116 minutes
After watching The Nice Guys I’ve come to the conclusion that Shane Black should direct movies more often. As a screenwriter he created the first, (and best), Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight, but since his directorial debut with 2005’s brilliant (and underseen) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, we’ve only had one film, the 2013 hit Iron Man 3. So I was excited to see his latest work, and it didn’t disappoint.
The Nice Guys takes place in 1977 Los Angeles and follows the misadventures of gruff enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) and shambolic private eye Holland March (Gosling) as they are brought together on a seemingly simple missing person case that soon spirals into conspiracy, politics, pornography, and murder. Along the way the duo are aided by March’s thirteen year old daughter Holly (Rice) as they race against time, gunfire and their own failings to crack the case and make it to 1978.
The greatest strength of this film lies in the chemistry between the two leads. Crowe brings an endearing world weariness and professionalism to Healy, which warms the audience to his character despite some brutal acts of violence. As March, Ryan Gosling fully explores the comedic chops he displayed in earlier roles, with some hilarious slapstick moments and an undercurrent of pathos in his relationship with his daughter. Both men bounce off each other brilliantly, adding another classic odd couple to the action genre.
The supporting cast are all compelling, with Keith David’s henchman, Margaret Qualley’s activist and Kim Basinger’s politician all standing out. However, most impressive is young Angourie Rice as Holly. Her character is precocious and aware in a way that would be grating with a lesser performer but she strikes an effective balance and holds her own against the established cast. Some of her dialogue and encounters during the story are as adult as her co-stars which jars at first but soon becomes reflective of a child raised by a character as dependent as Holland March.
In typical Shane Black fashion, the plot is complicated with numerous twists and false leads along the way. There is plenty of intrigue to draw the audience in, but essentially the plot is a backdrop to the central relationship between Healy and March. As a result, the story is unafraid to go into some more ridiculous situations, embracing elements of farce and coincidence, but then taking sharp turns into realism through dialogue and violence.
The Nice Guys is a very enjoyable cinema experience that will entertain any fans of self-aware noir and buddy action comedy. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, it is a solidly entertaining, intricately plotted period piece with great performances by the two leads, and is well worth a watch.
Calum Maclean, June, 2016