The Nice Guys is a 1977 Los Angeles-set buddy comedy action movie directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3). It follows Holland March, who is possibly the worst private detective in Los Angeles and John Healy, who is possibly the most badass enforcer in Los Angeles.
These two mismatched boys must help each other locate a missing porn-star when her mother, a high-ranking official in the Department of Justice, pays them to find her. Along with March’s surprisingly more-mature-than-them daughter, March and Healy must survive each other’s company and find the truth before it’s too late.
If you like noir films and their universal structure, you’ll like The Nice Guys. This film’s basic plot (before the comedy was added in) was a pure and gritty noir film, complete with the imperfect detectives, the “this case is bigger than we thought” story, the unending parade of problems that arise whenever one is resolved and of course the porn industry. Wait… the porn industry?
The Nice Guys has an MA15+ rating (in Australia) for a good reason. It’s set in 1970s Los Angeles and is predominantly about porn-stars and their aforementioned industry.
On top of the complete and brilliant respect for the noir genre is The Nice Guys‘ main field of expertise, the comedy. Most (if not all) of the comedy in the movie is generated from the banter between the two leads, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and it is great. The comedy is constant. Even the scenes that try to be emotional are comical. There are plenty of funny moments but there is never a truly great laugh-out-loud moment.
The scenes that try to be emotional should’ve been scrapped. The Nice Guys is already a great mix of genres but the few moments that felt like they were trying to be dramatic felt cheap. We go through all these fun adventures and see the characters in ridiculous situations and then all of a sudden we’re hearing one of their tragic backstories. We might feel sad for a few seconds but then the action continues and that sadness is never again addressed. It felt unnecessary. They should’ve just kept with the action-comedy tone they were excelling at.
Throwing back to the comedy, the chemistry between the two leads is brilliant. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are both perfect in their roles. Russell Crowe uses his grumbly voice and large physique to great advantage in this role.
Ryan Gosling shows great flair in the field of comedy. His character’s personality would very easily be misplayed by most other actors but Gosling plays him to perfection.
Gosling’s character’s daughter in the film is played by young Australian Angourie Rice who is excellent. For a relatively unknown child actress to play alongside Hollywood A-listers such as Gosling and Crowe and be considered equally great is quite an achievement.
One big problem I had with The Nice Guys was its climax. A film that falls into a category known for incorporating mysteries should presumably have some mystery in it, but I was able to figure out the ending less than halfway into the film. Also the climax action scene where old foes duel and old friends unite wasn’t really that spectacular.
Despite the un-climactic climax, the lack of truly great jokes and the fact that there wasn’t really any mystery, I really enjoyed The Nice Guys. The humour is constant, the banter is wonderful, the performances are excellent and the action was perfectly blended with the comedy. I’d watch The Nice Guys again but I certainly wouldn’t bring anyone younger than 15.
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