June 13, 2016 by bck1402
Stars Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, and Kim Basinger
Directed by Shane Black
Some movies can be too smart for their own good. With franchises and sequels floating around, there is a sense that having a built in audience is a profitable market. At the same time, pulling in newer audiences can be problematic as the expectation for most of these movies is some knowledge of the prior movies or the properties these movies are based on. So when something nice and original comes along, it is a breath of fresh air, but not something everyone appreciates either. That’s more or less given the response of The Nice Guys in the cinemas.
We have a solid and entertaining movie that no one seems to be paying much attention to and that’s a little sad. Sure there are the few who love almost anything Shane Black writes, and the lead stars have their fan base, but it doesn’t seem to be enough, especially given the nature of the movie, it’s ‘mature’ tone and in all likelihood, the complexity of the plot.
But that’s hard to pin down. The movie throws you into the plot almost from the get go with a car crash where a porn starlet dies, delivering an odd come-on line with her last breath. Then we’re with tough guy Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) as we see him go about his business before meeting a client, Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who asks him to ‘take care’ of a couple of people seemingly stalking her, before jumping to private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) who is in the midst of a missing person case and is one of the people asking after Amelia. Before you now it, all three little disparate events tie together with Healy’s client, Amelia, being the key witness to March’s case, the mystery of the dead starlet being supposedly seen alive days after her death. Then comes the ‘why’ as our reluctantly teamed duo find they are not the only ones after Amelia, and more dead bodies come out of the woodwork as the case takes them into the world of porn movies.
Both Healy and March are severely flawed characters but with specific skills that end up complementing each other as they work the case. What works beautifully is the chemistry between the two and the banter that follows throughout the movie, with March’s tween daughter Holly (Angourie Rice, stealing scenes from her leading men) somehow being the mediator and voice of reason for the two men. The rest of the cast provide solid support, delivering a string of quirkily funny one-liners and absorbing dialogue throughout.
Director Shane Black carefully paces his movie with some well-executed action beats, balancing in the danger and humour with the drama. Gosling is capable with comedy and action, and Crowe brings his A-game to match. Kim Basinger adds some extra class while Matt Bomer exudes dangerous and deadly charm as hired killer, John Boy. Keith David and Beau Knapp pull a double act as a pair of hard-core enforcers also on Amelia’s trail, constantly running up against Healy.
The late 70s setting is beautifully realised with a rocking groovy soundtrack to match, and it helps that any CG effects used is more towards set dressing than in the action itself… and one weird dream sequence. The film and style is also a throwback to the action flicks of the era, and it works so well. It’s almost flippant in how it treats the character of Amelia to the point you don’t really know what is the deal with her, or if anything she says is true. But as with this movie, everything is about perception; how you look at things and quite very likely, there is another side to the matter.
However some people may approach this move, there is no denying what a daring and amazing filmmaker Shane Black is, delivering what is one of the better films of the year so far. As with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, time will prove this to be one of the classics.
Rating **** /5