Shane Black’s The Nice Guys stars Ryan Gosling as Holland March, a man who is trying to raise his daughter, Holly ( Angourie Rice) and maintain his interest as a jaded private investigator. Russell Crowe is Jackson Healy, a man who has no real job title, but if he shows up at your door, then you have done something to bring him there. Healy is a bruiser; a freelance bouncer of sorts only he does not work in clubs. He fancies himself as somewhat of a private investigator (PI), even though he is not licensed. Together these two join up to find a missing girl. Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley; actress Andie McDowell’s real life daughter) and find her connection to a murdered porn star, Misty Mountains. As the film progresses, it is revealed there may be a larger conspiracy at work involving the Justice Department and Detroit automakers.
Set in Los Angeles in the 1970’s, The Nice Guys has a cool vibe throughout and Shane Black revels in the whole disco and neon culture of that time period. This is a sharp looking film and Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi’s script works for the most part, thanks in large part to Crowe, Gosling and little Ms. Rice who play off of each other extremely well. They have chemistry and Black keeps the pacing up to speed. The problem that I had with The Nice Guys is that I did not find the humor in some of the scenes that I know were going for laughs. A large number of them are shown in the trailers. I don’t know who is putting these trailers together, but they are revealing WAAAAAAAY too much.
Crowe’s Healy is somewhat of a blunt instrument but he is not dumb. He is an observant man, who only does what he is paid for and nothing more. Gosling’s March is down on his luck, living in a rented house with his daughter, after his own home burned down, killing his wife. He is no slouch either, but seems relegated to taking money for lame cases brought about by old ladies, who may or may not be all there. Some of the scenes involving March and his clients is actually pretty clever as is March’s relationship with his daughter. Angourie Rice is a revelation as Holly. Mature beyond her years, she is a star in the making and does a terrific job. She even manages to upstage her two mega-star leads, and that is a major achievement when you have Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as your two leads. Margaret Qualley shows she has range, after playing an angst ridden teen in HBO’s The Leftovers.
The Nice Guys is not a great film, but it works for the most part, in the same vein as Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, another Shane Black film from 2005 with Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan and Robert Downey Jr. investigating another murder. Some of the humor does not work but most of it does. The chemistry of the three leads drives this film much more than anything else and the actual mystery, itself, is well crafted and kept me intrigued. I was interested in these characters and the supporting cast is pretty decent, too, with Kim Basinger, Keith David, Matt Bomer and Gil Gerard (yes, THAT Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers fame) turning in fine performances in what limited screen time they have. David Buckley and John Ottman’s score is a terrific mix of action and 70’s themed styled music and it really enhances this film, too.
Shane Black has defined the buddy film genre with classics like the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight. Some good; The Monster Squad, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and Iron Man 3 and then comes The Last Action Hero. We will leave that one alone. The Nice Guys fits in the good heading of his resume. This is not on the level of the Lethal Weapon films, but there is enough going on in this film that kept me interested and entertained. Sometimes, that is all we need.
The Nice Guys- *** out of 5
The Nice Guys- Rated R for language, nudity and violence
The Nice Guys- Run Time is 120 minutes
The Nice Guys is now playing in theaters. Check your local theaters for listings and showtimes.