The Nice Guys (2016)

They’re not that nice

Stepping into the cinema to watch the highly anticipated The Nice Guys, I had little idea what to expect, not having seen any of the trailers or promotional spots for the film. All I did know was its classification (MA15+ here in Australia), which suggested plenty of impactful violence, nudity and bad language. As one would expect, the said rating is quite justified with The Nice Guys being a neo-noir romp about ‘thug-like’ detectives trying to locate a missing girl, their bullet-dodging search leading them to the iniquitous underground porn circuit.

The Nice Guys is the latest action-comedy from acclaimed director Shane Black, Iron Man 3 (2013), and stars the odd pairing of Australian Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, L.A. Confidential (1997), playing alongside one of the hottest men alive today, the steamy Ryan Gosling, Drive (2011). Our story unfolds in a smog-filled Los Angeles, the year 1977, where we’re introduced to down-on-his-luck single father/ private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling), who’s on the job searching for an adolescent girl by the name of Amelia (Margaret Qualley). You see, March has been making ends meet as a licensed PI, though his seemingly questionable investigatory methods seem to land him in an unusual spot, March often being mistaken for a con man. At around the same time Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) steps onto the scene, an enforcer hired by a young ‘hippy’ lass — whom we later find out is Amelia — to track down the people that had been trailing her. Low and behold, Healy knocks on March’s front door and, following an entertaining home invasion tussle, March agrees to leave Amelia alone.

'Whatever happened to good mustard, man?'
‘Whatever happened to good mustard, man?’

Shortly after, Healy is ambushed in his pad by two hired guns — a couple of ruthless hit men who are out to end Amelia’s life. Healy handles the risky situation the only way he knows how, with a one-two walloping, quickly deciding to be the ‘nice guy’ here by opting to locate Amelia before the crooks do. To speed things along, Healy decides to seek out the disheveled March (who was previously tracking Amelia), the ‘butting-heads’ duo eventually teaming up in order to crack the case, the hunt steering the pair into the murky and dangerous world of pornography.

From the onset, it seemed as though The Nice Guys was going to be filled with wall-to-wall action, after an opening scene that sees a car tumble off a cliff and then frenziedly smash into a nearby home! From this point on however, the movie takes its time to get back on its feet. With that said, the most enjoyable part of this crime caper is its second act where the crux of story begins to unfold. The dialogue is sensational with witty quips and one-liners from our frontmen taking center stage. It’s evident that the actors had a lot of pleasure making this picture as the steady banter between the leads will no doubt have viewers laughing out loud — for real, not just the lol type.

Russell Crowe does a fantastic job as Jackson Healy, the brooding tough guy who knocks people out for a living. The kicker folks is that Healy is (in fact) actually a ‘nice guy’ — when he’s not wearing his brass knuckles that is. The standout though is Ryan Gosling who portrays Holland March, Gosling working as the flick’s comic relief, sharing an irresistible ‘bromantic’ chemistry with co-star Crowe. Gosling’s March understands his own flaws and shortcomings and as a result drinks way too much and becomes terrified when things get out of hand (which, in this case, is quite often), Gosling’s fumbling and bumbling making for some very comical moments. Either way, both Crowe and Gosling pack one hell of a punch!

Nice guys. Bad detectives.
Nice guys. Bad detectives.

Another key character is March’s teenage daughter Holly, played by young Aussie actress Angourie Rice, These Final Hours (2013). Holly is the main reason as to why March hasn’t gone completely bonkers, the resourceful 13-year-old constantly prying and getting involved in her dad’s affairs to keep an eye on his erratic behavior — even if he usually insists that she stay at a friend’s place when he’s on a case. Nonetheless, I did find her presence unnecessary — even a little whiny — and felt as though the flick would’ve worked just as well without her — although, the father/ daughter dynamic did bring about its playful bits, particularly March’s questionable parenting techniques such as letting Holly watch porn … with a porn star!

The supporting cast is also formidable. Matt Bomer, Magic Mike XXL (2015), portrays cold hearted killer John Boy with a wink in his eye, Margaret Qualley, Palo Alto (2013), brings a smidgen of depth to the misunderstood Amelia Kuttner (who only wants to show her artistic side) while a zany Beau Knapp, Southpaw (2015), nails the part of Blueface, the dude who initially attacks Healy and gets the ball rolling. One major let down here is Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential (1997), who depicts Amelia’s high-powered mother Judith Kuttner, who also happens to be the head of the California Justice Department. While the mother/ daughter relationship is rendered as a complicated one, Basinger doesn’t express the emotional heft needed to solidify this connection, which is a bit of a letdown, given the veteran actress’ stamina and filmography.

Set in the swinging ’70s Black glazes his frames with flashy nostalgia. From the retro outfits, to the pop soundtrack, to the Sex Pistons posters on Holly’s wall, one will certainly feel as though they have stepped back in time. Additionally, the cinematography is completely en pointe with Philippe Rousselot, Sherlock Holmes (2009), perfectly capturing the era where bell-bottom pants ruled the roost — heck, I could almost smell the liquor fumes and pollution ooze seeping from the screen. With music from Temptations, Earth, Wind and Fire and KISS, I for one couldn’t help but get into the groove.

Twice as nice!
Twice as nice!

Look, The Nice Guys is a movie of a different kind. It’s the type of buddy-cop escapade that viewers haven’t seen in quite some time. Loaded with twists and turns, likeable characters and legitimate laughs (mostly earned through masterful writing), The Nice Guys will keep viewers on their toes, even if the final revelation is a bit of a bummer. Good old-fashioned fun, this one won’t necessarily linger but hey, its a blast while is lasts. So, if you’re looking for a bromance to rival that of Captain America: Civil War (2016), look no further!

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by L. Jackson

The Nice Guys is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia