Movie Review

Film Review: THE NICE GUYS (2016): Pure, Shamelessly Entertaining Shane Black

The Nice Guys Ryan Gosling

The Nice Guys Review

The Nice Guys (2016) Film Review, a movie directed by Shane Black, starring Russell CroweRyan GoslingMatt BomerKim Basinger Angourie RiceMargaret QualleyYaya DaCostaKeith

DavidBeau KnappLois SmithMurielle TelioGil GerardDaisy TahanJack KilmerLance Valentine Butler.

The Nice Guys might be the Shane Black-est film of Shane Black films to date. Black has essentially become his own brand at this point, and even Iron Man 3 was distinctly chock-full of Black’s trademarks: relentless, wall-to-wall wisecracking dialogue, violence, and flashy, pulpy atmosphere. The 1970’s Los Angeles setting of The Nice Guys gives Black a golden opportunity to play up the atmosphere, and from the opening credits, it feels like Black’s personal, updated twist on a swinging exploitation crime thriller of the era.

The film opens with quite a bang– an adolescent boy flips through the pages of a porno mag featuring a centerfold named Misty Mountains, when suddenly a car crashes through his living room, and lo and behold, among the wreckage lies a bloodied, dying Miss Mountains. Here, Black has established a tone that remains pitch-perfect throughout the film: dangerous, twistedly funny, and downright juvenile.

What ensues is a buddy comedy of a bygone era. Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a tubby and absolutely merciless thug-for-hire. Ryan Gosling is Holland March, an alcoholic goof of a private investigator whose tween daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) has accurately labeled him “the worst detective alive”. The two first meet as adversaries, and then, surprise surprise, must join forces, as the investigation around the death of Misty Mountains goes deeper and deeper. The two have an undeniable chemistry that is completely pleasurable to watch. Crowe is a gruff, bullish stick in the mud, and Gosling is a spastic fall guy. It’s such a watchable pairing that the evidence of a sequel in the final reel inspires genuine interest rather than groans.

The takeaway from The Nice Guys is Gosling. This is new territory for him, and he delivers a wonderfully gonzo performance. He has a real gift with comedy, particularly of the physical variety, that we have only seen hints of in the past, and after this film, I’m hoping he takes more roles like this. My opinion of Gosling had been rather low as of late, after seeing his directorial debut, Lost River, last year. It was like watching a bad student film with a budget, visually just scene after scene self-consciously ripped from classic world cinema, stuck together with the flimsiest, most derivative of storylines, and littered with ineffectual graphic violence and off-putting rapey elements. It was the most outrageously bad film I saw in 2015, and since then I was fairly certain that I was finished with Gosling; but Shane Black has tapped into something very special about him here.

I found the immediate experience of watching The Nice Guys to be mostly good fun, even though the convoluted, bloated plot certainly doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny. As is the case with all Shane Black films, the screenplay is too much of a good thing. All of Black’s films are truly overstuffed with his signature smart-ass dialogue. Virtually no lines are delivered without some degree of a wink. Granted, most of his snappy lines are extremely hilarious, but at times it just gets monotonous, even groan-worthy on occasion.

This film is filled with action sequences, and this is Black’s most remarkable work as an action director to date, staged for maximum dramatic, comedic, and shock effect.  That being said, I must note that I was greatly put off by the character of Holly, and her treatment in the film. In manipulating an audience, it’s the cheapest trick in the book to put a child in danger. And that’s exactly what it is here: it’s just cheap. I wasn’t amused the first time that lousy father Holland put his daughter in mortal danger, and by the fourth and fifth times I just felt queasy and gross. Black revels in his lurid, pulpy creations, and for the most part these are solidly entertaining. But this is no place for a child. That’s just irresponsible storytelling, and, I’ll say it again, it’s cheap.

Rating: 7/10

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About the author

Samuel Murrian

I am currently taking two film classes at UCLA. I went to the University of Pittsburgh for Film Studies, and have been attending The Groundlings School in Los Angeles off and on for a few years, as well as UCLA.

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