Dan's Review: "The Nice Guys" has plenty of laughs
May 19, 2016 04:24PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys - © 2016 - Warner Bros.
The Nice Guys (Warner Bros.)
Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.
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.
Written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi.
Directed by Shane Black.
Ah, the Seventies. Like the Sixties, they say if you remember it, you weren’t there. It was a time of excesses and vices, a time of cultural upheaval and a time of disco. I was a teenager during the Seventies, so I mostly remember the disco. If you’re a filmmaker, it seems all you have to do is throw a little funk or disco onto the soundtrack, dress up your actors in bellbottoms and – bingo! You’re transported in time. Well, not so fast. The Nice Guys, a film co-written and directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) is one of those “period” films set in the 1977, starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.
Crowe plays Jackson Healy, an “enforcer” for hire who often beats people up in order to deliver painful messages. Gosling plays Holland March, a single father and struggling private detective trying to make an honest living in Los Angeles while raising his 13-year–old daughter Hollie (Angourie Rice). The two men meet when March begins to investigate the disappearance of a young environmental activist named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who is connected with the death of porn star named Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). Healy is hired by Amelia to pay March a visit and convince him to stop trying to find her. Healy break March’s arm, and later discovers that his life is in danger due to his connection to Amelia. The two unlikely partners team up to find Amelia, who is connected with some sort of porn film that reveals a government conspiracy to keep the “Big Three” auto manufacturers in business at the expense of the environment. Further complications arise when Amelia’s mother Judith (Kim Basinger) hires the men to find her daughter, too.
Mayhem ensues as the men bumble their way through the case and several people associated with the mysterious porn film die.
The Nice Guys has several very funny moments in it, mostly due to the clever dialogue of Shane Black, who cut his screenwriting teeth on films like the Lethal Weapon series and other “buddy” action films (The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight). Black provides other humorous and surreal moments, like March’s conversation with a bee as he drifts into unconsciousness. Unfortunately, The Nice Guys is not Black’s best work (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of the funniest and well-crafted comedies I’ve ever seen), and unlike KKBB, it lacks any kind of clever twists or surprises.
The 1970s cultural theme in The Nice Guys is a little clichéd, too. Not only did most of the hit songs used in the movie come out after 1977, but the use of stereotypical icons of the day seem limited to the wardrobe and disco/funk. I DO remember the 1970s, and the larger cultural influence of the day came from TV networks and their low-quality series of the day. The Waltons series (on the decline on 1977) is referenced in the movie and is also part of the movie’s plot, but none of the other hit shows that numbed the collective minds of viewers back then make any kind of appearance. If you’re going to make a 1970s period movie, you’d better include widespread TV culture of the day, too. Ironically, the #1 TV shows of 1977 and 1978 were Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, two programs devoted to revisionist views of 1950s culture. Also conspicuously missing: Star Wars.
Despite these flaws, Crowe and Gosling are well cast and share a certain comedic chemistry. The Nice Guys has potential to become another successful “buddy” action franchise (it was originally pitched as a TV series), but I know Shane Black can do better.
The Nice Guys Trailer