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 and slightly disappointing.
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Nice Guys
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Familiar but fun
  • filmbuff2011

    The Nice Guys sees Hollywood hotshot Shane Black return to the director’s chair with a typically flamboyant, action-packed and mouthy crime caper that recalls his earlier gem Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

    Los Angeles, 1978. Private Investigator Holland (Ryan Gosling) is investigating the death of porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). Connected to this is the disappearance of another porn star, Amelia (Margaret Qualley). His paths cross with fixer/problem solver Jackson (Russell Crowe). Amelia has asked him to find out who is trying to track her down. It seems that activist Amelia was involved with a porn film that actually has an important message hidden within its ‘plot’. After an initial altercation, Holland and Jackson soon find that they’re chasing the same tail, which leads to them teaming up and taking down the bad guys who are trying to stop them from literally exposing the truth. Aided by Holland’s smarter-than-her-Dad daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), they tackle Amelia’s mother Judith (Kim Basinger) and anyone else who gets in their way…

    The Nice Guys is undoubtedly a Shane Black joint. So, if you’ve enjoyed his previous films then you’ll find this a blast. The strength of a Black film is always in the writing. Co-written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, the script is so sharp that you could cut an arm on it, much like the clumsy Hollland does early on in the film. The two central characters are brilliantly written and are both equally smart/dumb depending on the scene and what happens.

    A great example is when the two of them are going up a scenic elevator. They stop on their intended floor, the doors open, they hear gunshots, bodies start falling around, they quickly close the doors and a nervous look passes on Holland’s face. Hilarious. Gosling and Crowe make a wonderful double act, with perfectly timed line deliveries and a well-played sense of knowing humour throughout. It’s dream casting and it’s a wonder they haven’t worked together before. Mismatched characters they may be, but the two actors lets the sparks fly and are clearly having as much fun as the audience will have watching them. Young Rice is more than a match for the two of them and is an unexpected delight amid more adult scenarios.

    The actual plot machinations revolve around a Macguffin, a can of film which ultimately isn’t that important. What is important is that the guys crack the case and find out who tried to kill Misty and who is trying to kill Amelia. Black is very canny about this, keeping audiences guessing throughout as to who is really pulling the strings. He also catches the period detail in all its natty glory, so that it also feels like a film from the 70s – perhaps something Paul Newman and Robert Redford might have made together. Never less than entertaining, The Nice Guys is very well-written and features two brilliant performances that are worth the price of admission alone. Black certainly hasn’t lost his mojo, so his upcoming The Predator looks to be promising. Go see. ****

  • emerb

    “The Nice Guys” is set in 1977 Hollywood and directed by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). It’s a hilarious buddy cop thriller telling of a pair of private detectives in L.A. taking on an initially straightforward case which leads them deep into a vast criminal conspiracy involving the polluted Southern California air – plot sounds serious? Well, believe me, it’s not! The film is sharp,
    witty and playful and is typical of the delightful way Black has worked with this genre throughout his career. Helping his well-written script is the expert teaming of the mismatched pair of private eye detectives: a slapstick, cool Ryan Gosling and a no-nonsense Russell Crowe. They are forced to unite in order to unravel a ‘70s-set missing-persons case involving porn stars, hit men and a coalition of auto makers.

    Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a private eye who struggles to raise his teen daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) as he balances work with his drinking. Russell Crowe is tough-guy, Jackson Healy, who earns cash by beating up his clients’ enemies. The duo must team up following the death of a porn star named Misty Mountains and this sets them off on the trail of another adult entertainer, the missing Amelia. The twisty plot leads them into a sprawling maze of shady criminals and powerful corporations. As they attempt to unravel the mystery, they receive a considerable amount of help from March’s precocious, headstrong 13-year-old daughter, who possesses far superior skills than her wacky Dad and emerges as the film’s only moral character, guiding each of the men in their decisions.

    The plot in “The Nice Guys” is not at all important, it’s supposedly about corporate power, environmental activism and how pornography was taking hold of American culture at the time but really, this is a film to be enjoyed solely for the many laughs it gives us. The clothes, the cars, the music (including includes Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang), the cinematography – everything
    is spot on and perfectly conjures up a 1970s vibe. It’s eccentric and wacky but thoroughly entertaining and the sharp script and witty dialogue is boosted by the top-notch performances from comedy duo, Crowe and Gosling who bring the well-drawn characters to life. Gosling was the stand out for me, giving one of his best performances to date as the buffoonish, often-drunk March. I couldn’t finish without mentioning the talented young newcomer, Angourie Rice, the adorable 13 year old daughter who is there to humanize the two men. Crowe is also perfectly cast as the straight-faced, dour Healy. This film feels fresh and lively and stands out from your typical Summer flick, in a genre that often falls flat. It never takes itself seriously and I found the whole adventure a whole lot of fun. I can see a sequel already being lined up.