The Nice Guys review
Distinctly Shane Black
Having made a billion-plus dollar movie for Disney-Marvel in Iron Man 3 as his last project, writer/ director Shane Black returns to his strength—buddy murder mysteries. While the protagonists for his newest film, The Nice Guys, operate as private investigators as opposed to carrying a badge, all of Black’s rhythms are present in the writing. Having previously seen one of the filmmaker’s movies makes his latest a tad predictable, but the value of a ticket still exists in the unique brand of comedy blended with buddy investigators that the filmmaker has perfected over his Hollywood tenure. Killing a few hours gets way too simple when you throw in two of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history with Ryan Gosling and Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe as leads. In another summer crammed with studio tent poles and blockbusters, this low-key comedy-noir from a proven filmmaker certainly provides audiences with more substance than a narrative following animated, ill-tempered fowl or Seth Rogen fighting the campus Greek community again.
Keeping in tradition, Black chooses Los Angeles as the city of our story. Unlike the present setting in Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3, the director’s newest movie takes place in the 1970s, achieving a “noir-ish”/ Inherent Vice vibe. When a porn star’s vehicle veers off a mountain road and into a fiery crash on a Los Angeles evening, the authorities assume suicide until a private investigator played by Gosling starts rattling some cages. Gosling stars as Holland March, a widowed father of a tween girl, underachieving in his job and typically disappointing his P.I. clients as often as his own daughter. The international star nails every rhythm of his character, really connecting with Black’s distinct writing. His comedic timing tops that of his performances in Crazy, Stupid, Love., The Big Short, and Lars and the Real Girl. Perhaps Gosling will replace Robert Downey Jr as the director’s good luck charm.
Russell Crowe costars as Jackson Healy, another private investigator of a different sort than Holland. Healy doesn’t exactly have his investigating license and has a more hands-on approach to interrogation that generally involves violence of some sort. Healy doesn’t have the detection skills or sense of humor that Holland displays, but shows a heroic quality underneath his bruiser mentality that only Crowe can deliver. He’s an excellent counter to Holland’s smart mouth. Holland and Healy amount to another pair of Shane Black sleuths solving a murder to join the likes of: Riggs & Murtaugh, Iron Man & War Machine, and Harry & Gay Perry.
A wise-cracking child brighter than her adult counterparts really turns The Nice Guys into a movie made by the writer/ director, of course. Young Australian actress Angourie Rice (Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, upcoming Jasper Jones) plays Holly, Holland’s daughter and fervent investigator despite her father’s efforts to separate her from his case. Despite cracking jokes and making light of her father’s ability to do his job, Holly holds the movie together to give the detectives someone to simultaneously defend and keep the plot going. When “the nice guys” hit a wall, it’s Holly who keeps them moving whether they’d like to or not.
Go and see The Nice Guys while it’s still in cinemas. Shane Black turns in a quality murder mystery with great comedic elements for his newest movie—the type viewers don’t normally get in May. If one enjoys visiting the local movie theater, summer 2016 won’t offer many films like this one. Three comic book movies have already come out this year, with at least two more coming this summer. Countless other studio cartoons, sequels, and remakes take up the remainder of the summer scheduler with The Angry Birds Movie and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising already championing The Nice Guys in its opening weekend. There won’t be a change-up to the endless franchise movie pattern until The Free State of Jones arrives in late June.