Review: The Nice Guys
PLOT: A down-on-his-luck private eye (Ryan Gosling) and a hired enforcer (Russell Crowe) team-up to track down the runaway daughter of the L.A District attorney (Kim Basinger), whose disappearance is somehow tied-in to the violent demise of a porn star.
REVIEW: THE NICE GUYS is exactly what the old time Warner Bros-Silver Pictures logos promise at the start. An affectionate throwback to the kind of commercial action movies that used to dominate the marketplace (and which kids of my generation were weaned-on), this is a full-on popcorn movie in the true sense of the word. A stand-alone action-comedy free of CGI, superheroes, and end-of-the-world stakes, this is writer-director Shane Black in fine form – doing the kind of stuff that made him the highest-paid screenwriter in the world twenty years ago.
Very much in the same vein as his directorial debut, KISS KISS BANG BANG, only loaded up with a bit more big-studio carnage, THE NICE GUYS exploits Black's strongest suit – the buddy-action comedy. An unlikely pair, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling prove to be the ideal guys to carry the torch of Black's most famous heroes, Riggs and Murtagh, as two private dicks (well – one is technically just muscle) who, as the title suggests, are really nice guys underneath it all. Sure, they may have to break some limbs and kill some bad guys, but at the end-of-the-day both abide by the same moral code as Black's other big screen heroes. For all his edge, Black's movies always have clear-cut heroes and villains, and this is strictly in that tradition.
It's really only the period 1977 setting and the lack of a Michael Kamen (RIP) score that makes THE NICE GUYS easily distinguishable from Joel Silver's eighties-nineties classics. It's big, bright, funny and most of all exciting, with great, no BS action beats, a good whodunit hook and tons of snappy dialogue, Black's stock-in-trade.
Both stars appear to relish the opportunity to do something big, broad and fun. Crowe is totally relaxed as the burly leg-breaker Jackson Healy. While snapping limbs is his specialty, like his character in L.A CONFIDENTIAL, he just wants to do right in a way that doesn't involve hurting people too much – it's just that he's so damn good at it so why stop? He doesn't exactly have a heart-of-gold, but he's not too far off. He's the action guy here, or rather the Riggs (movie Riggs, not TV Riggs) of the pair. Gosling plays against type as a fearful private eye, prone to panic attacks and weeping at the sight of danger, but also not quite sleazy enough to thrive in his chosen profession. Together, Crowe and Gosling are a full-on comic team, complete with slapstick, pratfalls, and one scene with a corpse that’s like a hyper-violent version of an old Abbott & Costello routine.
While this could have been a total testosterone fest, Black challenges that aspect by making Gosling's young daughter a full-blown third lead. Played by the excellent Angourie Rice, Holly is far from the typical kid-in-jeopardy. Stuck driving her usually drunk father arond L.A (that no one bats an eye at a twelve-year-old driving is indicative of the film's sense of humor), she becomes an active participant in the case and as essential to the Crowe/Gosling pairing as someone like Joe Pesci or Rene Russo was in the LETHAL WEAPON sequels.
If THE NICE GUYS has any failings, one could say the bad guys aren't quite menacing enough, despite the presence of Keith David and Matt Bomer (also cast against type) as muscle. Being a whodunit, the villains aren't apparent until the end, so that's not as big a flaw as it may seems. Still, it would have been cool to see someone really formidable go-up against them. Otherwise, THE NICE GUYS is pretty perfect as far as big-screen entertainment goes. You're unlikely to have this much fun at anything else this summer, and while it may struggle against more typical fare at the box office, hopefully great word-of-mouth will give it some momentum. This absolutely has the potential to be a retro action franchise and with action-comedies like this in short-supply, the fans need to show-up in force to make this become the hit it deserves to be.
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...