Monday, May 23, 2016

A Reel Review: THE NICE GUYS

In the late 1980’s, screenwriter Shane Black kickstarted the buddy-cop film genre when he wrote the first LETHAL WEAPON film. The genre lasted nearly 20 years with many sequels and rip-offs and parodies before fizzling, and here in 2016, Black returns to the genre that he practically invented. Only this time with a slight twist in THE NICE GUYS.

Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a private eye who is hired to find a young girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who, before vanishing hires free-lance enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to get March off her trail. When March and Holland converge, they learn that even more dangerous people are looking for Amelia…

Set in the late 1970’s, THE NICE GUYS is a mystery film deeply saturated in old-school, L.A. film-noir. The mystery is a thick maze with many twists and turns, which includes (but not limited to) a dead adult-film star (Murielle Telio), a corrupt politician (Kim Basinger), two bumbling hit-men (Keith David and Beau Knapp), and just for good measure…a scandal involving the Detroit auto-industry. The trail that March and Holland have to follow and make sense of is thick with layer after layer of questions, and THE NICE GUYS becomes a film which is impossible to try and outsmart. If a filmmaker is better off confusing the audience than to let them get ahead… then director Shane Black has done a masterful job in keeping his film smarter than the audience.

But what makes it all work is the marvelous character work done with March and Holland. The chemistry that Black builds between the two characters is a joy to watch from the first minute thanks to the simple measure of making these two guys so different; March is a wimp who would rip-off his own client before solving a case, and Holland is a tough-guy thug who breaks arms for a living, but is still a straight-man with a high sense of honor. The contrast between the two is believable, keeps the film moving, and offer some hilarious moments. And just as an added bonus, the rail-thin March and the husky Holland evoke memories of LAUREL AND HARDY…in a good way. In THE NICE GUYS, it doesn’t matter if the mystery is impossible to figure out, because the film is just too damn fun to watch and explore with these two characters.

Black keeps the pacing brisk, the language harsh, the breasts bare, and the guns blasting in a very R-rated film which doesn’t once feel gratuitous. This is the 1970’s and Black knows it. The sense of style and music makes the film feel timeless, and Black also shows his love for old-school Hollywood filmmaking with no shame. This is a filmmaker’s film, and a film-lover’s dream.

Acting is a blast. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe show great chemistry together. Gosling finally steps away from his tired blank-stare act and Crowe shows some terrific comedic chops. As good as they are, they are often upstaged by young Angourie Rice, who as Holland’s 13 year-old daughter, does a great job and thankfully avoids the annoying-kid role. The rest of the impressive cast which includes Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Murielle Telio, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Ty Simpkins, and Gil Gerard (!) are all excellent.

The film wraps up nice and tight with all of the questions answered, and although some of the many bad guys get away with it, the film still ends with some nice resolution for all. What makes it stand out from the old buddy-cop genre isn’t just that the two leads aren’t cops, but that it’s done in a way that makes the old genre feel fresh and new. In THE NICE GUYS, Shane Black has crafted a fun, witty, raunchy, bloody, and totally re-watchable film that’s as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. THE NICE GUYS are a blast to hang out with.



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