THE NICE GUYS (USA/15A/116mins)
Directed by Shane Black. Starring Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer.
THE PLOT: Unlicensed PI Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and debt collector/enforcerJackson Healy (Russell Crowe) meet for the first time when one of Jackson’s clients pays him to get Holland off her back. The two soon realise that there is a lot more to this story than they first thought, and team up to get to the bottom of the mystery.
THE VERDICT: Directed by Shane Black, but not starring Robert Downey Jr, ‘The Nice Guys’ feels as though it is a follow up to Black’s directorial debut ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, but while the story tires to be as complex, the stylishness and comedy do not work as well, and ‘The Nice Guys’ is not half as smart as it thinks it is.
Ryan Gosling is on fantastic form as Holland March, in his second cinematic outing of 2015. The role is distinctly comedic, and Gosling shows off his timing and skill for this kind of role, making Holland March ridiculous and bumbling, but also entertaining and someone with a lot of heart. It is Gosling’s relationships with his co-stars Russell Crowe and Angourie Rice that make the film work as well as it does. Russell Crowe plays the straight man to Gosling’s fool. Although Jackson Healy is as clueless and bumbling as Holland, he is sober for most of the film, which gives him a distinct advantage. Crowe makes Jackson an imposing presence on screen and he does well against the more comedic Gosling. Angourie Rice plays Holly March – Holland’s daughter – and like Chloe Grace Moretz’s character in ‘(500) Days of Summer’, is smart and older than her years and works well with the entire cast. The rest of the cast features Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer and Margaret Qualley, but this is a film carried by the central trio.
Screenwriters Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi have obviously tried to capture the spirit and energy of the complicated comedic mystery ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, and while they make the characters work for the most part, in trying to recreate the complex but satisfying story of the previous film, they largely fail. ‘The Nice Guys’ relies on comedy, which is fine, but the film seems to think it is a lot smarter than it actually is. Throwing in twists and turns instead of a satisfying story doesn’t work, and neither does the drawn out plot points; the audience eventually switches off.
As director, Black creates strong chemistry between his cast, and certainly plays up the comedy of the film, but it is in trying to deal with the comedy, the complicated plot and the relationships in the film that everything begins to fall apart; Black is simply trying to keep too many balls in the air; and the one that falls is audience engagement. As well as this, at 116 minutes, the film feels long and drawn out, with the story seemingly made complicated to justify the funning time, and not the other way around.
In all, ‘The Nice Guys’ is stylish and smart on the surface, and Ryan Gosling does a great job at playing up the inherent comedy of the film, while creating strong chemistry with Crowe and Rice, but with an overly complicated story and a feel that the film is not half as smart as it thinks it is, ‘The Nice Guys’ is an overly familiar disappointment.
Review by Brogen Hayes
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (USA/12A/112mins)
Directed by Dave Green. Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Stephen Amell, Stephen Farrelly, Laura Linney.
THE PLOT: The Turtles struggle with being cooped up away from humanity, and as they do, a new threat arises in the form of Dr Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry), who is working with Shredder (Brian Tee) to first of all break him out of prison, then create mutant henchmen in the form of Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly). As the Turtles take on their old enemy, a chance to become human threatens to tear the team apart.
THE VERDICT: Let’s be honest here, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ is not a film that is designed to make a lot of sense, it is designed to be big, loud and dumb fun, and that is exactly what director Dave Green delivers.
The voice cast includes Tony Shalhoub, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard and Brad Garrett, and they all do fine with the roles they are given. There is not a lot to these characters, but the voices sound real and enthusiastic. The same goes for Stephen Farrelly and Brian Anthony Green as Bebop and Rocksteady but they have more of a chance since they start their roles in the flesh before switching to CGI. The human actors fare less well, with Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett and Laura Linney feeling wooden and one dimensional in their roles.
The screenplay, written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec contains a lot more comedy than the 2014 film, mostly in the form of Bebop and Rocksteady, and there are some nice nods to the 1980s cartoon that fans will appreciate. As far as the film as a whole goes, however, it is riddled with plotholes, science that does not make a lick of sense and characters that are thin and difficult to engage with.
Director Dave Green takes over from Michael Bay with all guns blazing, setting out to make his own version of “Bayhem”. The characters are nothing to speak of, with most of the humans coming off as foolish and rather lacking in the brains department. The action scenes are a lot of fun, and the comedic timing is strong throughout the entire film, and it is clear that Green had a lot of fun making this nonsensical film, that every preteen boy in the audience will adore.
In all, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows’ is loud, dumb, CGI heavy but actually has a lot of laughs, if you can forgive the nonsense going on on screen. That said, the film is aimed at preteen boys, and they will have a ball with it.
Review by Brogen Hayes
ME BEFORE YOU (USA/12A/110mins)
Directed by Thea Sharrock. Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Matthew Lewis, Jenna Coleman.
THE PLOT: When Lou (Emilia Clarke) is let go from her job at a café in a small town, she lands a job with a rich family, looking after a young man who was paralysed in a road accident. Over time, the two form a bond, but their relationship is cruelly cut short.
THE VERDICT: ‘Me Before You’ is based on the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes, and tries to take a different look at a romantic drama, by making the lead truly brooding and tortured, but in doing so, raises some problematic themes.
It is easy to see why Emilia Clarke would want to take on the role of Lou – a bubbly, bright and enthusiastic character – after playing Daenerys in Game of Thrones for so long. Clarke does well enough with the character, but is severely limited in what she is actually allowed to do, since Lou is written to be so darn chirpy all the time. Sam Claflin takes on the role of Will, a young man paralysed in an accident, and who is struggling to come to terms with the change to his life. Again, Claflin does OK in the role, but other than being a frosty snob who gradually begins to thaw, Will is not a character with much depth. The rest of the cast features Jenna Coleman – who is terribly underused, but her chemistry with Clarke is sweet – Matthew Lewis, Charles Dance and Janet McTeer.
Jojo Moyes adapted her own novel for the screen, and while the first two acts of the film are sweet and light, the characters are underdeveloped and never given a chance to be much more than they are on the surface. The working class girl’s passion only being clothes is a worrisome one, as is the snobbish young man’s tendency to show her foreign language films and only use their original titles, implying that she is an idiot. The screenplay follows familiar tropes and feels trite and familiar, with the third act’s commentary on living life to the fullest while seeking to end it all is problematic to say the least.
As director, Thea Sharrock does fine, but she is fighting a troublesome screenplay and underdeveloped characters. There are times when the chemistry between the two leads is engaging, but when the conversation quickly switches back to shoes, this is lost. The pacing of the film is rather messy, with time passing in a way only the film seems to understand, and characters dropping in and out of the tale seemingly at random.
In all, ‘Me Before You’ is problematic. The performances are fine, but the characters are underdeveloped, the pacing messy and while the film tries to have a warm message, the way it gets there is troublesome and rather reductive. Claflin and Clarke deserved better.
Review by Brogen Hayes
RACE (Canada | Germany/PG/134mins)
Stephen Hopkins. Starring Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Carice Van Houten, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt.
THE PLOT: While attending Ohio State University, a young Jesse Owens (Stephan James) shows a talent for track and field sports. Under the training of Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), Owens blossoms, becoming one of the greatest athletes of all times, and going on to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the Olympics overseen by Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat) and Hitler’s Nazi regime.
THE VERDICT: The story of Jesse Owens and how, as an African American man, he came to compete in the notoriously racially divided Olympics in Berlin is a fascinating one, but in trying to tell too much, director Stephen Hopkins loses the main focus of the story.
Stephan James does well enough in the lead role as Jesse Owens, making him tenacious and cheeky, but also respectful and engaged. There are times when James struggles to make the film work as well as it could, but this seems to be largely down to the screenplay, rather than any fault of James’ own. Jason Sudeikis does well in a rare dramatic role; Larry Snyder is a driven man who is determined to get the best from James, and makes the character engaging to watch on screen. The rest of the cast features Carice Van Houten and Jeremy Irons – who both struggle with strange accents – as well as William Hurt and David Kross.
Screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse seem to have decided to tell the entire story of Owens’ college life, right up until the time he decides to compete for the Olympics. This is fine in theory, but with the story of young love leading to a child outside of marriage is skimmed over, as is the lead up to Owens setting three new records at a track and field meet within the space of 45 minutes. When we actually get to the Olympics, there are three different storylines going on; how the US came to compete in the controversial Games, Leni Riefenstahl (Van Houten) famously filming the Games, as well as Owens’ successes and famous rapport with German athlete Carl ‘Luz’ Long. Each of these stories is an interesting one, but in trying to tell all three means that the film feels fragmented and none of the storylines is given the focus it deserves. As well as this, the title of the film – ‘Race’ – is just a little too on the nose.
Director Stephen Hopkins is best known for his work on TV – ‘House of Lies’ and ’24’ to name but two – and this inexperience in films is obvious in the film. There is enough material here to make a strong TV series, but in trying to tell this in 134 minutes, the strength of the tale is diminished. The pacing is strange, with large portions of the film spent away from Owens, so the film feels drawn out and flabby in places. The performances are strong for the most part, with many of the problems with the film coming from a split focus, rather than weakness on the actors’ part.
In all, ‘Race’ is a film that tells a powerful story… In fact, three powerful stories, and it is this split that weakens the film from being a strong look back at history and one of the greatest athletes to come up through the college sports system at a time when African American segregation was still rampant in the US, to trying to tell too much. In the end, ‘Race’ tells too much of everything, and not enough of Jesse Owens and his skill as a sportsman.
Review by Brogen Hayes