IT’S POLITE, IT’S RIGHT
By Sam Jones
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
PRODUCER: Joel Silver
WRITERS: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
STARRING: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger
The Nice Guys is the latest feature from Shane Black, director of Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Taking place in the seventies, the film focuses on the lives of two slightly scuzzy, but nevertheless well-meaning schlubs: Jackson Healy (Crowe), a hired thug and heavy, and Holland March (Gosling), an alcoholic private eye with no sense of smell, and an acute fear of bees. A chance encounter with a shared client brings Healy and March together and sets them on the path of a truly bizarre murder case.
I’ve not seen many Shane Black films (this would be the second after Iron Man 3), but I get the feeling “hilarious, witty, rapid-fire dialogue” is something of a trademark of his: suffice to say, The Nice Guys brings it in spades: every scene is loaded with great little exchanges and zingers that do a great deal to keep you engaged. Every character is brimming with their own particular charms and personality: this, combined with the film’s off-kilter and often biting sense of humor, makes each scene a delight to behold. While the sense of humor on display isn’t quite Oscar Wilde-levels of wit and wittery, its clever wordplay is a welcome respite of the seemingly endless stream of horrible, lowest-brow levels of humor being churned out in most big comedy releases.
Performance-wise, Gosling and Crowe are a great pairing in this film, and show a surprising amount of comedic acting chops that I honestly didn’t know they had, and they bring a great deal of chemistry to their roles. Ryan Gosling’s performance as Holland March is particularly note-worthy: Gosling’s performance imbues the character with the perfect blend of Sterling Archer-esque ass-headery mixed with genuine charm and likeability. While Gosling’s performance was the standout, this shouldn’t take away from anyone else’s performances, especially Angourie Rice as March’s pre-teen daughter Holly, who delightfully proved my pre-conceived notion wrong that every child actor is goddamned awful.
While The Nice Guys generally hit all the right notes in terms of characterization, dialogue, and performance, the plotting and story is where the film begins to trip up a little bit: while there were plenty of twists and turns to be had to keep things interesting, the plot begins to lose its focus after a while, and by about the half-way point of the film, the exact reasons for why anything that’s happening is happening becomes a tad bit lost in the shuffle of an increasingly (and perhaps needlessly) elaborate scheme: and while this was likely, in part, the idea, the execution was a bit lacking in clarity in what it what it was going for by its end. Its also worth mentioning that while March and Healy are strong leads generally speaking, there were aspects of their characters that, for whatever reason, aren’t really properly explored: Healy for example is early on established as being embittered towards the idea of love and marriage, and yet oddly, this aspect of his character, having been established, is never really revisited, which ended up making his character feel slightly flat. In the grand scheme of how entertaining everything else in this film is, however, these are relatively minor points.
While it can feel a little bit like a mess at times, The Nice Guys brings enough flavor and charm to the table that it ultimately doesn’t matter if the plot and story don’t quite hit the right notes. Even if you have no clue what the hell is actually going on by the end (I know I didn’t), you’ll be having a great enough time with the movie that’s not gonna matter all that much. If you’re after a solid action comedy that feels fresh and brings the charm, then I would highly recommended The Nice Guys.