Synopsis: A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.
Release Date: May 20, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Comedy
Although he doesn’t have too many directorial efforts under his belt, Shane Black has proven himself to be a master wordsmith and storyteller. With films like Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black demonstrates an understanding of how to surprise and entertain all at the same time. But those prior films were merely appetizers when compared to The Nice Guys, Black’s true revelation as a writer director.
The Nice Guys has a lot of the same qualities as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – a morally questionable detective, a central mystery that has more layers than an onion, and comedic timing that subverts expectation at every turn. But where Black’s freshman film was proof of concept, The Nice Guys is pure execution, the type of expertly cast dark comedy that is hard to find these days.
At the center of it all are Ryan Gosling (as fledgling P.I. Holland March) and Russell Crowe (as muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy). Although the two are on completely different cases, their goals eventually coalesce into one, and the two work together to uncover a plot that involves deep-seeded government corruption, pornography, and a whole lot of dead bodies. It’s best to go into The Nice Guys knowing as little about the plot as possible, because figuring out the “who” and the “why” in these types of films is always the most fun. But let’s just say that Black knows how to spin a tale that feels obvious at first, but is never so. He knows how to pack every scene full of details that may not seem pertinent at first, but eventually make sense.
Black is also a skilled writer who can wield subtlety as deftly as slapstick. With two accomplished actors leading the way, The Nice Guys delivers consistent, but surprising, laughs. The jokes in the film are very rarely predictable and the timing on both Crowe and Gosling is impeccable. There may not be plans to do a The Nice Guys 2, but audiences will be lining up if there is.
The Nice Guys also succeeds in creating a mood and a feel that typifies the late ’70s. Period pieces are never easy to do, but Black takes care to ensure the film never misses a mark. The story could have easily worked in modern times, but it’s all the better because of its historical context. Production design on the film is also top notch, bringing smog-era Los Angeles to life in great detail.
There really are very few things about The Nice Guys to dislike. The humor may be a little too goofy for some, but that’s a big part of its charm. Some might also find March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) a bit grating, but the film does enough with the character to keep her from falling into too many obvious tropes. Her character also adds some much-needed heart to the film, an important counterbalance to all of the corruption and death.
The Nice Guys is a dark comedy with a clear vision, a confident director and script, and a strong comedic backbone. It offers everything that a mystery like this should, and it consistently surprises on numerous levels. All credit is due Shane Black, Ryan Gosling, and Russell Crowe for understanding the material and how to do it justice. More importantly, their contributions help make The Nice Guys one of the year’s best films.
If you were a fan of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, then The Nice Guys is going to be right up your alley. Yet again, Black loves to explore the fringes of dark comedy, drawing uncomfortable laughs out of even the most morbid of situations. The film also smartly juxtaposes its darker comedy with plenty of slapstick, and Ryan Gosling nails the physical humor. He and Crowe have perfect chemistry together and are an excellent comedic duo. Even if the film had been a straight drama the mystery is strong enough that it would have been successful. But with the added dose of comedy The Nice Guys becomes something special: a rare film that can engross you and have you cry-laughing from one scene to the next.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Shane Black
- Producer(s): Joel Silver
- Screenwriter(s): Shane BlackAnthony Bagarozzi
- Cast: Ryan Gosling (Holland March)Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy)Matt Bomer (John Boy) Kim Basinger (Judith Kutner)Ty Simpkins (Bobby)Margaret Qualley (Amelia)Keith David (Older Guy)Rachel Brooke Smith (Julie)Jack Kilmer (Chet)Angourie RIse (Holly)Yvonne Zima (Red Thompson)Hannibal Buress (Giant Killer Bee)
- Editor(s): Joel Negron
- Cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Kym Barrett
- Casting Director(s): Sarah Finn
- Music Score: David Buckley
- Music Performed By: John Ottman
- Country Of Origin: USAUK