Please note: I originally wrote this review for Pan and Scan. The original can be found here.
Director: Shane Black
Runtime: 116 minutes
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan gosling, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.
Shane Black’s love letter to 1970s America comes in the form of a buddy movie. This is a movie that shares many similarities to the Lethal Weapon films, which makes sense, as Shane Black wrote those also. The Nice Guys is silly, violent and a whole lot of fun.
Shane Black’s script is air-tight, and it is carried extremely well by the film’s two leads: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. There is a strong chemistry on-screen between the two front-men. Crowe’s bravado the perfect foil for Gosling’s drunken failings. The two main protagonists are from a similar background, but one is much more official than the other. It turns out though, the better man is most likely Russell Crowe’s hitman: Jackson Healy.
Healy is rough, but loyal. He will see that a job is done once he gets paid. No matter the job, no matter the person he has to beat up. We learn that Healy’s a troubled man. He isn’t in love with his situation, but he doesn’t hate it. He enjoys the violence, sure, but he isn’t sure if he’s ever doing the morally right thing. We are shown right from the off how respected he is, despite not being found in the Yellow Pages – he gets the job done.
Ryan Gosling’s Holland March however, is more of a slimy character. He is more legit than Healy, but he explains the tricks of the Private Investigator trade. You take the money for a certain amount of days work, come back with something of a lead, demand further payment (upfront, of course) and never quite finish the case. March isn’t the most competent detective either. He doesn’t like violence, at least, with his left wrist surely in constant pain after slicing it through a window, and getting it broken shortly afterwards by Healy.
The film opens with a kid rummaging around for his one of his dad’s issues of Playboy, only to be distracted when he does find one by a car flying through his house. It is the car of porn actress Misty Mountains, who dies in that scene. March is on the case of finding out whether or not she did really die, as her aunt claims to have seen her alive and well, just two days after her ‘death’. Healy, meanwhile is on the case of keeping fellow porn actress Amelia (Margaret Qualley) safe from a score of people out to get her.
Healy and March meet in an unconventional manner, with Healy going to March’s house to stop him tracking Amelia, who matches the description of Misty Mountains. The following scene sees March getting brutalised by Healy, who breaks his wrist to warn him off his case one final time. Of course, after this meeting, it was only natural that the two men would team up to tackle a case that becomes more and more interesting as the film develops.
There is plenty of room in the plot for comedy too. The Nice Guys is a funny film. There are jokes pretty much constantly. Some fall flat, but there are more than enough good jokes in the film to keep you entertained throughout its lengthy runtime. Violence in the film is a constant laughing point, as too are seedy situations the protagonists find themselves in. The plot never takes itself too seriously either, which is nice. The set-pieces however, needed a bit more work.
The Nice Guys is at its best when it’s quiet. It gives time for the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling to develop. The quipping between the two is brilliant fun, and it only gets better when there are more people involved. The set-pieces dragged on a little in comparison. I appreciate that the film needed action scenes to hold people’s attentions, but in my opinion more than a few of them went on a little bit too long. The crescendo to the film was a little bit flat thanks to this.
The longer action pieces slowed the pace of the storytelling. I felt they took away from what the film did best – comedy. The Nice Guys is a classy comedy. The gags never get crass, or particularly rude. It’s quite a witty film. It looks good too. It really captures the 1970s through its music, dress and characters. It’s a very well made film, with a good eye for detail. The biggest compliment I can pay The Nice Guys though? I’d pay to watch it again.
The Nice Guys is funny, violent and does practically everything right. The set-pieces can go on a tad too long, but they don’t detract from a quality comedy overall.