Movie Review | The Nice Guys
Movie Summary: In 1970s Los Angeles, a mismatched pair of private eyes investigate a missing girl and the mysterious death of a porn star. (IMDb)
The Nice Guys was one of my favourite films of 2016 and nothing has changed since then. A spiritual follow-up to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this film also teams up two guys who really shouldn't work as well together as they actually do. The Nice Guys isn’t quite as good as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but it’s pretty damn close.
The fact that Shane Black has managed to pull this off with Ryan Gosling – who I had admittedly seen very little of at that point, although knowing that he wasn't known for comedy roles – as private detective Holland March, and Russell Crowe – who seems to constantly waiver between being relevant and not – as a low-level enforcer, Jackson Healy, is astonishing.
It really is the director that sold me on this though, even before seeing the first trailer: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man Three are both great too, so he’s got quite the hot streak going at the moment and I'm really looking forward to whatever he comes up with next. The excellent trailers only helped to seal the deal.
The only thing that really stops The Nice Guys from matching KKBB is that the comedic parts don’t mesh quite as well with the serious sections as they do in the earlier film. The tonal changes can be a bit abrupt, which can lead to moments of hilarity or shocks – depending on which way the tone is changing – but more often than not they just feel a little awkward.
And that’s the end of the criticism! Really, I loved everything else in The Nice Guys – it looks great, the soundtrack complements it perfectly, the performances are uniformly stellar, Crowe and Gosling have incredible chemistry (although, is there anyone Gosling doesn't work well with?), and there’s even time for a mini LA Confidential reunion when Kim Basinger shows up.
Then there’s Angourie Rice playing Holly, March’s daughter. She is just fantastic and the glue that really keeps the team of March and Healy working so well together. The fact that she’s not written like a typical child character helps, although you’d fully expect her to not be a typical character with Shane Black in charge.
The plot is as intricate as KKBB, but again just doesn’t quite match up in comparison to Black’s earlier effort. It’s hard not to compare the two films as they’re both about a pair of mismatched guys who end up working together a little reluctantly to solve a mystery surrounding the disappearance and/or death of a young woman.
If that sounds like Black is simply re-treading old ground, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised, as the Seventies setting of The Nice Guys and the larger conspiracy driving the events of the film more than makes the difference – oh, plus the fact that Rice’s character plays a much more different role than Michelle Monaghan’s, which is only to be expected considering both the age difference and the respective relationships their characters have with the men.
It might take a while to get into, especially as the two leads aren’t wholly likeable characters to start off with, or even by the end of the film. They’re both effectively jerks with hearts of gold who would rather not work together but their partnership turns out to be greater than the sum of its parts.
One other criticism that could be levelled at the film is that there is no main antagonist for us to root against, hoping that March and Healy beat them and solve the mystery. Instead, it’s a nebulous group that consists of lots of henchmen and lesser antagonists. Fortunately, you'll be enjoying yourself too much too care.
Then again, having a truly central character may have detracted from the interplay between Crowe and Gosling which is what makes the film work so well in the end. If there was a ‘big bad’ that was the focus of the plot, time would have to be spent establishing the characters’ relationship with them and that just wouldn’t have been as much fun.
The Nice Guys is a fantastic film that everyone should see, whether you've seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or not (if you haven't, maybe remedy that problem with a double bill). As noted above, their is very little to criticise this film and it's a damn shame that it didn't make more money as I'd love to have seen a sequel. Crowe and Gosling are on fire, Angourie Rice is incredible and the script is just amazing - a must-watch movie.