The Nice Guys (Movie Review)

Nice Is The New Black

The Nice Guys is a 2016 American mystery-crime thriller action comedy directed and written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) and co-written by Anthony Bagarozzi. It stars Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Drive, The Big Short) & Russel Crowe (Gladiator, Les Misérables, Man of Steel) as the leads. It also stars other well known actors such as Angourice Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David and Kim Basinger. Set in 1977 Los Angeles, Ryan Gosling plays Holland March: a private eye down on his luck. When he winds up in the midst of investigating the death of a porn star called Misty Mountains. Holland realises that a missing girl called Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley) is involved and accepts the job. This is how he ends up clashing with Kutner's hired enforcer: Jackson Healey (played by Crowe) as she does not want to be found. Once March & Healey realise there's more to this case than meets the eye, the two end up on a deeper investigation of sex & political corruption: making way for one of the most vitalising buddy-cop-but-not-a-cop films in modern times (if that's a genre at least). 
Releasing in May of 2016 against big summer contenders like Captain America: Civil War, Bad Neighbours 2The Angry Birds Movie, making only $57 Million Box Office in return for it's $50 Million budget was tragically inevitable for The Nice Guys. Tragic of course not because of failing in terms of quality compared to the franchise giants but because of The Nice Guys' dynamic performances; entertaining story & overall fun-filled originality in it's story making it one of 2016's best: deserving much more than it got in return. 

Gosling gives a hilarious performance as the confident yet idiotic Holland March.

Firstly, with Black making the decision to set The Nice Guys in the late 70's, it gives the opportunity to have a play around with the settings and the John Ottman-made soundtrack. This experimentation is pulled off magically, packed with bundles of beautiful wide establishing shots of the city. With an opening wide shot of 70's Los Angeles at night, you're welcomed with a very subtle yet still funky 70's beat of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" by The Temptations. Accompanied with realistic and quality set pieces (bright stripey jackets, large moustaches, bulky cars etc), you immediately get settled in for the era that you're witnessing this story in. Al Green; Kiss, Kool & The Gang, Rupert Holmes: artists whose songs are known for projecting a form of energy and soul, carry you on a cloud of funk throughout the two hour run time, giving each development of the film an additional jolt of excitement. 

The Nice Guys has so many gorgeous set pieces that whip you back to the 70's.

Onto what's probably the most unexpectedly great about this film: this casting of Russel Crowe & Ryan Gosling. After 13 years of Shane Black trying to get The Nice Guys from script to reality, both Crowe & Gosling accepted their roles within 3 days of receiving copies of the script when they realised they could be working with each other, Gosling even praised the script saying that it was even funnier when imagining Crowe as Healy. The reality is exactly the same as the story on casting suggests: these two are incredible in their roles and are more so working together. Performances by other main and additional cast members are satisfying enough to contribute to the action comedy tones but it's Gosling and Healy whose performances you'll be praising the most. 

Part of the new iconic duo, this is the best acting out of Russell Crowe seen in years.

Those who have only seen Gosling in his more serious roles, such as Drive or The Notebook, will be pleasantly surprised seeing him play the unlucky and hilariously cynical Holland March and even all the more delighted with Crowe's gritty but kind-hearted Jackson Healy. Seeing the premise and casting on paper, you may not think that Crowe and Gosling together on screen would work but it's half of what makes The Nice Guys so refreshing. Not only is the script bulging with fresh, witty dialogue but Crowe and Gosling bounce off each other so well, it's almost seamlessly natural as if they've worked together for years. The characters of Healy and March work so well together for another reason other than being played by two very talented leads: it's the fact unlike most buddy-cop comedies, despite initially clashing at first, the two characters are actually a lot alike. They've both had unfortunate pasts, problems with alcohol and both have conflicted moral compasses although their hearts are in the right place. There's even a couple of scenes with a bit of monologue in each, which will more or less leaving you chuckling by the end of them whilst simultaneously appreciating the banter-filled chemistry between these two astounding leading actors. 

These two in this protest scene: absolutely brilliant.

The pillars carrying The Nice Guys is a 50/50 balance between the talent of its leads followed by what the invigoration its story and structure brings to the fold of the film industry. It cannot be put into words what a wonderful change of pace this film is: not for the sole reason of not being based on any existing material or being the fourth sequel to a predictable franchise, it feels so rejuvenating because it's proof that a new, original idea can still work amazingly well. Without giving much away about the mystery plot, the porn industry is pretty much involved for the bulk of it. Don't interpret that as an aspect that takes away it's charm though as it only enhances the story. The script is written with witty; sharp dialogue, hilarious exchanges and quote-worthy lines. You'll be drawn into the mystery because of the humour at its forefront but by the second act, you'll be stuck into it, trying to figure out yourself what happened to the victims. Structure is founded with careful balance: finely journeying you through exciting, humour-sprinkled action scenes layered inbetween just the right amount of slowed down scenes. Reading a synopsis of the plot would make you believe The Nice Guys is a lot more serious and intricate, requiring more energy to watch the first time if not a second. However; it's paced so well, sandwiching together plot-propelling & sit-down detective-chatting scenarios that are all wrapped in a layer of hilarity, it's so easy to just slouch back and enjoy this unique adventure without having to think too much about it. You'll continuously ask yourself "what WAS this based on?!" before you follow with a conclusive "oh..." as you realise this potent, compelling piece of work came from nothing but inspiration and highly skilled writing. 

Kim Basinger still looks great by the way. Damn.

If I had to highlight any errors, if you could even call it an error, it would be the late introduction of a final villain played by Matt Bomer. He's great in the role, carrying a chilled charisma as an ice cold killer but nothing is seen of him until the third act. It can be seen why this was the case, in terms of keeping things fresh maybe, though it can't be helped that you'd wish you've seen more of him beforehand. Speaking of charismatic characters, a shout out has to go to Holly March, Gosling's on-screen daughter, played by Angourie Rice. Going against the child-character stereotype of getting in the heroic grown-up's way, this is a young character who actually adds additional flavour of what makes the The Nice Guys so pallet-cleansing. She's sassy, actually helps with the detective work herself and can hold her own, all alongside still providing that emotional compass every moral-questioning hero has.

It's always nice to see a child actor who isn't just there like a background prop.

Final Thoughts

Shane Black's last writing and directorial effort; Iron Man 3, was enjoyable but hardly breaking the barrier of unique, cinematic, craftsmanship. As if he went back to the drawing board to re-find his roots, Black has created something that will make those not familiar with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, know him for a reason other than churning out a passable Marvel sequel. During an era where nearly every film that isn't a sequel; reboot, sequel-hybrid-reboot and child-friendly CGI showcase is a 2-star horror film on Netflix, The Nice Guys is the 2016 answer for film goers who ask if originality still exists in new films. It's exciting; funny, has gripping yet engaging dialogue carried with two amazing leads and a refreshing story. It's settings, shots and soundtracks make it like you're watching a film from the 70's made with modern equipment yet still overloading with the gritty energy of that era. It's a perfect film. It's a masterpiece. It's soon to be a classic. Whenever you're in the mood for something different and a bit more mood-boosting than what's already out there, The Nice Guys will be the proof to you that original films can still surprise you, being one of the best of this year. 

Rating: 10/10

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