Genre: Mystery and comedy
Runtime: 112 minutes
Main Cast: Russell Crowe
Produced By: Joel Silver
Written By: Shane Black, Anthony Bagaroizzi
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By Nelson Cumming
The best way to describe The Nice Guys is like a crossover between Boogie Nights, Pulp Fiction and Starkey and Hutch. The Nice Guys is not as good as either of those movies but it is still enjoyable nonetheless. Gosling, Crowe, and Rice all sink their teeth into this movie and they all look like they were enjoying filming this movie. The set designs were also pretty top notch and the dialogue is good, but the plot is unclear as well as the some of the character motives. However, The Nice Guys is one of those decent buddy-cop movies where you are meant to follow the characters as they try and solve the case.
The premise is Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck private eye in 1977 Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate turns them into unlikely partners after a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. Healy and March soon learn the hard way that some dangerous people are also looking for Amelia. Their investigation takes them to dark places as anyone else who gets involved in the case seems to wind up dead. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to fully understand what was going on, but I got the basis of it when I realized that they had to solve a case where everyone involved in the pornography business winds up dead because of a secret film.
The two actors who are great in this movie are Ryan Gosling and Rice as a father-daughter relationship. Gosling was good at being an exploitative detective while the daughter who not only helps with the case but also calls her dad out about his behavior. I did not think Crowe was that great as he was one dimensional throughout except for the movie climax. Despite this, I believe Crowe and Gosling work very well together. They had the chemistry you would see in good buddy-cop films were one of them is on the straight and narrow (Crowe) and the other one comically fumbles around until they inadvertently break the case wide open (Gosling). Their chemistry really helped a lot. It stopped the movie from getting boring.
There is also some great Tarintinian-like dialogue between Crowe and Gosling, particularly when they banter toward each other. Some of the more memorable lines are very weird when taken out of context but those lines were amusing and helped make the film what it is. They were not laugh-out-loud funny but they didn’t really need to be as it would have felt a little disjointed given the dark tones and themes director Shane Black was going after.
Throughout this movie, you can tell the director was going for style either subtlety or very explicitly. A great example of this style is the opening scene that involves a car crash. This was not because female pornographer was topless but because the way her was positioned. It was not done tastelessly, but what it established to me was the movie was going to be filled with ambition. The director even goes for style points in the characters names. I just love it when movies try to get you in from the opening scene.
The only thing the movie lacked was a clearer plot to cater for the ongoing toll of all the dead bodies. It is clear in the sense that you know the good guys from the bad guys but I just did not know the motives for some of the bad guys in particular. Throughout the movie I was wondering “Why is this guy involved in this scene” and I was scratching my head at that point because I just wanted an answer to those question. This slightly hurt the rating on the movie
Nevertheless, The Nice Guys is a good buddy-cop movie that is set in the seventies and offers a badass, engaging story about pornography and violence. I was worried the movie would be misguided in its direction around those ideas but they never are. There are no moral lessons that are meant be learned from this movie but it looks and feels authentic with the time period while still engaging with the present day audience ***1/2