The Nice Guys is a film that arrives at just the right time. Amidst an influx of superhero films, CGI fests, and sub-standard adaptations, The Nice Guys is a supremely fun breath of fresh air that has more layers than you think.
Given the recent bad reviews of X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice: Through The Looking Glass, and Warcraft: The Beginning, The Nice Guys strikes precisely when it needs to.
Written and directed by Shane Black, and starring the unlikely duo of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, The Nice Guys take us deep into 1977 Los Angeles where the porn and auto industries collide with the justice department and environmental activists. Centrally, a young woman named Amelia is missing and a lot of people are looking for her, some with less than benevolent reasons. Luckily, The Nice Guys Holland March (Private Investigator Gosling) and Jackson Healy (less than subtle enforcer Crowe) are also on her tail. After Healy and March become buddies they become increasingly intrigued and embroiled in the case of Amelia as they bumble, crash, and bang from one clue to another. Be ready to be bombarded with sex, cigarettes, cars, violence and hippie protesters in a hyper stylish and retro experience.
Straight off the bat this film looks amazing. The costume and set design, used to full effect in the weird and wonderful party scenes, are mind-boggling. The detail in every scene is perfectly immersive and you don’t question the setting for a second. The cinematography perfectly encapsulates the humour of the film, the camera working brilliantly with the performers to enhance some of the ridiculous occurrences we see, including a flat-out crazy final action scene. There are some clever angles and faultlessly framed shots that make nearly every scene a treat.
The real strength of this film is the writing. Slick, smart, and often hilarious the script is one that makes the 2 hour runtime seem like it’s not enough. Every joke they try seems to work, the most shocking of which is a running Hitler gag that should have got old but didn’t. Even when the dialogue isn’t trying especially hard to be funny, it’s still entertaining and engaging.
Coupled with this is how the actors use the material. Crowe, Gosling, and aussie Angourie Rice (March’s daughter Holly) are all fantastic and the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling in particular is as surprising as it is strong. You’d swear they’d worked together before. While Black wrote much of the comedy into dialogue and action sequences the two leads add a lot with their physical performances. Facial expressions and body language play massive parts in displaying the humour and both pull it off. It’s a credit to them because their staple food is often quite a ways from comedy with both men frequently appearing in darker dramas.
Harking back to Shane Black’s previous hit Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Nice Guys is principally a buddy comedy, with the same convoluted plot setup, that is lighter in tone and obviously more stylish than Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer’s zany adventure. However, it still has a deeper emotional undercurrent running through it that gradually sneaks up on you and is most often brought to life by Angourie Rice in her role as 13 year-old Holly. For a young performer in her first Hollywood movie, Rice is simply astounding.
Given the current lay of the land , where Hollywood seems scared to make a film where the audience requires a shred of intelligence or quirk, it’s hard to fault The Nice Guys. It has a story you can have fun with while also thinking about the deeper implications, it’s beautifully shot and exquisitely acted. If you haven’t seen, I suggest you do.