The Nice Guys

 photo nice_guys_ver2_zpsk3d3imaa.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgBuddy film about Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a hapless private eye and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a paid enforcer. The pair team up to solve the seemingly unrelated disappearance of a runaway teen (Margaret Qualley), and the apparent suicide of porn starlet (Murielle Telio).

The Nice Guys was not only written but also directed by Shane Black.  A celebrated screenwriter, he penned Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With its fast talking, neo-noir stylings, his script here could be inspired by the work of Raymond Chandler. That Oscar-nominated screenwriter and author was known for seminal detective novels like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. However Shane Black’s script isn’t as organized to bear comparison with Chandler’s writing. The plot is made up of various story threads thrown together in a dramatic blender that favors messy incongruity over twisty coherence.

The Nice Guys succeeds best when it’s going for laughs. Crowe is an effective straight man. Gosling is enjoyable as the comic relief. As hired muscle and private eye respectively, they make an amusing duo. Actress Angourie Rice plays Gosling’s 14 year old daughter, Holly March, a nice addition to the mix. Holly desperately wants to help her father out with his business, much to his dismay. She is an appealing presence, but she also brings out the more benevolent qualities of the two men. Their more iniquitous traits are downplayed when she is around. She steals every scene too. In fact, the narrative might have benefited if it had been simplified solely around a father-daughter crime fighting team.

The Nice Guys is at heart, a simple B-movie thriller dressed up as a period piece. The feature is a loving evocation of 1970s excess. Polyester suits, bom chicka wah wah guitar riffs and Playboy mansion style parties uplift the environment with a kitschy retro sheen.  That’s fun, but then there’s a lot of extraneous story nonsense here that is wholly unnecessary.  Less is more.  A basic tale is obstructed with a convoluted plot involving the mistaken identities of two lookalikes, the porn world, government corruption, and a whole lot of murders. One, in particular, is especially depressing because the victim gets away from the killer only to be murdered by him minutes later while hitchhiking to escape. Zany comedy mixed with violence is a difficult balancing act. The uneven tone can be off-putting. Still, there’s enough jokes and charisma to make up for the unsavory stretches that occasionally bring this production down. The slapdash recipe is generally a tasty one.

05-22-16

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15 Responses to “The Nice Guys”

  1. Nice review Mark. I’m a fan of Chandler-esque comedies as well as Shane Black’s work in general, and I’m eager to watch this. I meant to see The Nice Guys over the weekend but ended up catching The Lobster instead; I’ll probably watch this next Saturday.

    • There are several, but Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is my favorite script from him.

      I’m trying to think of Chandler-esque comedies. Is that a thing? There’s The Nice Guys obviously, and The Big Lebowski, but what other comedies are Chandler-esque?

      • I’m mainly thinking of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye as well as Inherent Vice. I’ve always liked comic themed detective movies and between the Nice Guys and Vice it’s good to see them coming back.

  2. I thought the plot came together finally, but I agree that for a while, wasn’t sure how all of it was connected. Really did feel like separate cases.
    But, I laughed pretty hard throughout, and I give credit to Black for being able to make the action not stand out in a bad way like it does in other action comedies.

    • Not one, but TWO mysteries: The missing runaway teen and the dead porn starlet. It was a bit confusing at times, but I enjoyed the bits of humor along the way.

      That hectic chase over a film canister through an LA hotel was great fun near the end. One of a few well executed action sequences.

  3. This thing was so much fun!

  4. Mark, you are smart and insightful and I would be delighted if you considered co-hosting the July or August 13th Lucky Film Club event. What are you passionate about? Let’s talk and see if we can’t come up with a topic? On the day, you hijack my site and talk with everyone who comments. They are a lot of fun!
    cbruchman@yahoo.com

  5. Completely agree with you, Mark. Especially – “there’s a lot of extraneous story nonsense here that is wholly unnecessary. Less is more.” <– YES.

  6. Could have been better. Bring on more comedy. They had some pretty funny lines together. Ryan is very funny. Let him loose. 3stars

  7. Normally I’m a fan of Shane Black’s work, but I wasn’t as enthusiastic about The Nice Guys, mainly for your critique in the opening paragraph that the plot is made up of various story threads thrown together in a dramatic blender. I agree that the movie works best when it’s going for laughs. Gosling is funny, and he makes a great team with Crowe. Also I thought that Angourie Rice was fantastic. The movie’s uneven tone bothered me, and kept me from enjoying it as much as a lot of my friends. Overall it was a net good time, just not as strong as most Shane Black movies (for me anyway).

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