The Nice Guys
Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, Mat Boomer
Director Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Iron Man 3”) has built a career on directing Robert Downey Jr. “The Nice Guys” is his first film without the star, but re-teams Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger from “L.A. Confidential” in a very similar setting. There are some great elements to “The Nice Guys”, it’s very brash, the comradery between Crowe and Gosling is the films biggest selling point. Where the action comedy falters for me is the percentage of time devoted to comedy or slapstick. People are being murdered, kidnapped, abused, shot, and most of the time there are no consequences, until the script decides there are.
Late 1970’s private investigators Holland March (Gosling) and brute Jackson Healy (Crowe) are forced to team up and solve a couple of disappearances around Los Angeles involving the porn industry. Well known Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) has died, maybe murdered, but her coke bottle glasses aunt swears she saw the young vivacious girl hours after her death. Amelia (Margaret Qualley) the 19-year-old daughter of Judith Kutner (Basinger) who is head of the justice department, has also gone missing after dabbling in porn. Kutner hires the duo to find her daughter. March and Healy have different methods, their own reasons for their eccentricities, but it’s March’s 12-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) that pushes the two men towards solving the case.
Often times it’s hard to focus on the plot at hand because the physical comedy takes so much president over everything else.
The art director David Utley helps Black sell the time period to the audience in both effective and very minimal ways. The costumes and especially the basic visual effects that morph modern day Los Angeles into the 1977 version are seamless. The sets and look of the film are secondary however, because it’s the comedic stunts, prat falls and gags that take center stage. Gosling gives one of his most playful and ludicrous performances as the drunk investigator who squeals more often than he fires a weapon. Crowe is playing a different variation of characters he has portrayed in the past. He is very comfortable in this role as the more grounded and ironically honest presence of the film. Basinger and Boomer are more like cameos than supporting players, even less important characters are given more to do than the recognizable stars.
Often times it’s hard to focus on the plot at hand because the physical comedy takes so much president over everything else. There is a lot going on in the film, multiple merging story lines, many characters, but the comedic bits always take center stage. Thankfully anytime Gosling is rolling down a hill, or falling off a building, after the laughs subside it does lead to the next clue in the puzzle. Like “Hollywoodland”, “The Black Dahlia” or “L.A. Confidential”, “The Nice Guys” deals with corruption, mystery and sex in tinsel town. The majority of the time the dark satire is well written, other times the continual violence-for-fun becomes burdensome and heavy-handed. This is especially true in the films climactic moment. It’s both ironic and fitting that with such rated R elements that the true moral compass of the film is young Holly who is very much the partners greatest asset.
Too often the comedy interferes with the pace of the film, thankfully it’s unpredictability often saves it.