Title: The Nice Guys
Release Date: May 20th
Studio: Warner Bros. and Icon Entertainment
Director: Shane Black
Release Format: Theatrical
Shane Black returns to his roots of movies filled with crime, humor, and fun action set pieces. After some mixed reactions of Iron Man 3, including some of the recent controversy surrounding the villain; it seems Black is more at home with The Nice Guys. The Nice Guys is reminiscent of his earlier films such as Lethal Weapon (he only wrote the screenplay) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (he wrote and directed). There are also nods to classic TV shows from the 70s such as Starsky and Hutch.
The Nice Guys has a simple yet elegant story that could confuse some. In other words, it is convoluted. It revolves around private detective Holland March and hired enforcer Jackson Healy who are in search of the runaway daughter of a local Department of Justice prosecutor. There are hints at a much bigger conspiracy at hand other than just a girl running away. This is what makes it convoluted at times, which is sure to frustrate some.
The opening scene is just one of the many puzzle pieces that might frustrate some moviegoers while some might chalk it up as great storytelling. It just isn’t the opening scene of course, but also the plot twists that might not have made sense if you weren’t following completely or got lost earlier on. I was able to get the overall gist as to what is taking place, but it would be a lot nicer if I could have been able to follow everything.
There is also some predictability to The Nice Guys. Despite that the cliché buddy cop genre that has been done before, the film does feel fresh. The humor hits all the right notes while the action feels natural. The climax itself was one of the highlights of the film. If anything, Shane Black is great at making action mixed with humor.
It helps though to have an amazing cast. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, who play Healy and March, are the best thing about the movie. One thing Shane Black is great at as a director and screenwriter is buddy movies; which was obvious in films such as Iron Man 3 and Lethal Weapon. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling, make the action all the more fun. Some of the jokes might not have been believable otherwise. Crowe is more stern and serious as the enforcer while Gosling is more fun as a drunken private detective. They compliment each other pretty nicely, even when they aren’t together on the screen. There was one scene that involves them going their separate ways, with the film going back and forth between the two. Though they weren’t together, they were incidentally helping each other. It was clever and made for some of the best jokes in the film.
On the other hand, the supporting cast is nothing special. Yes, there are powerhouses such as Kim Basinger (Batman), Matt Bomer (Magic Mike), and Keith David (They Live), but they feel underused. It is a shame that David plays a street thug, nothing more, whilst Basinger is barely in the film at all. Basinger plays the prosecutor and should have been a bigger force in the film, but wasn’t. It is a shame because she is such a great actress. Even worse, is that she really is just used as a plot device. Add that Ty Simpkins, who has a very small role early on, and any other side character is just used as a plot device. Not much character building. Yes, these characters are fun to watch, but just felt lacking.
In addition, the movie takes place in the 70s and it seems Black tried to pull all the stops to make you know this as a viewer. The soundtrack is snazzy and fun though it seems that they just used a bunch of “Best of the 70s” funk tracks. While the soundtrack is pretty solid, it does not seem to work with everything else. For instance, the costume and set design feel like Black just wanted to make a movie in the 70s without really knowing what they were really like. Porn, crime, and crazy suits seemed like they were just used to progress the story forward and nothing else, just like the characters. Camera work is just OK. On the contrary, it looks to try and fit the 70s tone. Everything seems to be an homage to the buddy films/TV shows of the 70s while still feeling fresh. It just is a bit of a disappointment that Black, who is so great at dark humor, crime, and buddy films that he resorts to just making an homage.
Overall The Nice Guys is a fun film. It just isn’t without its flaws from the underused supporting cast and making everything seemingly a plot device. Being that Gosling and Crowe chemistry being a key driving force, there are moments where The Nice Guys could have gone completely wrong if it weren’t for the cast. Mixed with a fun 70s soundtrack, great action, and humor, Shane Black isn’t necessarily back in form, but he is getting there. It will be curious to see what he does next, but whether he tries to make it another homage piece, with no understanding of character and world building, it remains to be seen.
- Characters: The bad guys take a back seat for most of the movie, with the focus between Gosling and Crowe. Their chemistry brings quite a bit of hilarity that one might not expect from them. Side characters on the other hand feel like plot devices, nothing more.
- Cinematography: The film has a grain to it to make it feel like it was made in the 70s. Not really a necessary thing, but it was nice to make things fit as a whole.
- Story: Though predictable in parts, it is fun. The Nice Guys is reminiscent of old 70s buddy movies and TV shows in the likes of Starsky and Hutch. The story at times is hard to follow.
- Acting: Gosling is the standout, with Crowe a close second. When together on screen they have a chemistry that one wouldn’t expect. The supporting characters, for the most part, are alright with Kim Basinger being underdeveloped, underused considered her role in the film’s events.
- Gosling and Crowe
- Under-used supporting characters as plot devices
- Convoluted story