Since it was announced, I have been really excited to see The Nice Guys. The idea of Shane Black going back to the buddy crime movies that made his name was an incredibly enticing prospect and when it was revealed that the setting would be the 70s, my anticipation only grew, the idea of Shane Black emulating a 70s crime thriller being too good an opportunity to pass up. After watching it, I have to say that whilst I preferred his previous buddy crime film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this one is still a lot of fun.The film concerns enforcer Jackson Healy who is hired by a woman named Amelia to keep private investigator Holland March away from her. However, after Healy is attacked in his home by thugs hired to find Amelia, he recruits March to help him find Amelia first to protect her, the investigation they run getting involved with the porn industry, environmental protests, the car industry and the US Department of Justice, each element adding a new layer of confusion to the whole mystery. Like with his previous films, the strength of Shane Black is with his writing. The dialogue and interactions between March and Healy feel very natural, the progression of their characters throughout the film being very believable for people like this and in that situation. The way March and Healy investigate meanwhile is a lot of fun, Healy being more methodical and intelligent, whilst March is a drunk who often stumbles across vital clues for the case. The way these two styles contrast and complement each other is excellent and adds to the mystery of the film. Said mystery, like with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is brilliantly executed, each step of the mystery being more complex but makes perfect sense when all the pieces are laid out in front with you. This mystery brings in a lot of great themes, mainly the lengths the car companies will go to make money. The whole thing feels convoluted and contrived on the surface but once every detail of the mystery is made clear, it all makes sense. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go into any more detail for fear of spoiling the film.
The other main aspect of the film that makes it work are the performances. Russell Crowe as Healy has this really gruff, violent exterior but he is ultimately more caring, intelligent and sympathetic than he originally appears. Key character moments come from doubts he has about himself and his own self-pity, feeling like violence is the only good he can do for the world and this brings in some really great scenes regarding the morality of the character. Ryan Gosling as March meanwhile has the more broadly comedic role in the film and between this and The Big Short, I’m amazed Gosling hasn’t done more comedy before. I’ve not always been a fan of Gosling’s dramatic work but he’s excellent here, the slapstick comedy he does here being the comedic highlight of the film, particularly as the character gets drunk but within this is a darker side, his drinking hiding the pain of losing his wife and his feelings of inadequacy and whether or not he’s a good person. As March’s daughter Holly, Angourie Rice is a lot of fun to watch, in many areas being more intelligent that March or Healy, being more prone to questioning people and having an enthusiasm and sense of quick thinking that some of the other characters lack. Kim Basinger meanwhile makes a good impression in her scenes, balancing concern for her daughter Amelia along with a darker undercurrent that I won’t go into more detail on for fear of spoiling the film. As Amelia, Margaret Qualley does a good job, showing both the idealism and intelligence of the character, along with a sense of naivety and a bent towards the conspiratorial which, whilst right in some cases, is dangerous, whilst Matt Bomer makes for a great, sinister late in film appearance as assassin John Boy. However, there are some wasted performances, most prominently the great Keith David, the man with the most badass voice in the business, isn’t given much of a chance to show his skill as an actor, which really disappointed me.
The technical aspects of the film also impressed me. Shane Black does a great job directing the film, particularly the action scenes which are very engaging to watch throughout the film, whilst the cinematography adds to the sleazy 70s vibe of the film. The soundtrack also lends itself to this vibe, being a great mix of 70s pop and rock which is great to listen to. The film also does a good job in showing the porn industry of the 70s in a number of scenes, these scenes clearly owing a debt to Boogie Nights, which are a lot of fun to watch, whilst also adding to the greater mystery of the film.
The Nice Guys is a really fun, engaging, intelligent buddy crime film, although it doesn’t quite reach the high of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, mainly due to the ending, which I won’t spoil here but didn’t really satisfy me in its execution, along with some of the characters feeling a bit underdeveloped. That said, the script is of the typical high quality you come to expect from Shane Black and the film is anchored together by this script and excellent performances from Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.
My Rating: 4/5