The Nice Guys (2016) Review


Director(s): Shane Black
Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger

Plot: Forced into working together, private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) find themselves searching for an elderly woman’s daughter, Misty Mountains, a porn star found dead several days earlier.

Review: Having built an entire career around writing and directing buddy cop films, from penning the first two Lethal Weapon films to writing and directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), following it up with Iron Man 3 (2013), Shane Black has proven his worth in comedy for both smaller films and a tentpole blockbuster, crafting unique, nuanced characters, and placing them within interesting situational circumstances. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Nice Guys, co-written by longtime friend, Anthony Bagarozzi, and Black’s third feature film, is yet another milestone for the writer-director, especially for 2016, a year with surprisingly lacklustre comedies.

A late ‘70s period film set in Los Angeles, Black (and Bagarozzi) bands two opposing characters – yet again – to solve not only the film’s main conflict involving pornography, the automobile industry, and the moral panic of the ‘70s when it came to the boom of subversive adult media, but also the lead characters’ personal problems. It’s an undeniable formula present in every film in the buddy cop subgenre, but just as any other buddy cop film, the formula consists of different ingredients – characters, setting, themes, etc. –, of which is the main draw of these films. And with Black, one can always expect to be entertained, especially when taken into account how he is a writer-director self-aware enough to satirize the subgenre with Last Action Hero back in 1993.

Other than the aforementioned, The Nice Guys is an excellent film for many reasons, owing mainly to Black’s peerless direction. Playing the two leads, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling aren’t atypical faces when it comes to comedy; Crowe is wildly unbalanced in humour, while Gosling is a figure prominently attached to self-serious films, within which the actor is known for playing even more self-serious roles, particularly in Nicolas Winding Refn’s films. Yet, Black’s direction and writing easily brings the laughs fast and hard with the duo in the film, with Crowe finding the perfect partner to bounce his comedy off, while Gosling flexes his previously unseen facial muscles to deliver an excellent comedic and dramatic performance, aided by juxtaposing his character with that of Crowe’s Jackson Healy and Angourie Rice’s Holly March.

Critical acclaim aside, and well past the film’s initial May release, it’s certainly late to coerce filmgoers into cinemas for Black’s masterpiece, a film that certainly deserved to have made more in box office earnings beyond its measly $7 million profit. The Nice Guys is the perfect example to be used in arguments against those who claim they’re tired of prequels, sequels, remakes, and reboots, by-products of unoriginal ideas, and calling for original ideas, but couldn’t be bothered to watch an original comedy by the man behind Iron Man 3, a film that grossed over a $1 billion in the box office. Perhaps the film needed the Marvel brand?

Rating: A+