Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
An enthralling, mismatched buddy, action comedy from Shane Black. The Nice Guys is set in the seedy, underbelly of 1977, Los Angeles and follows the bungling antics of Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and the slightly more competent Jackson ‘Jack’ Healy, as they attempt to solve the mystery of a pornstar’s death and also track down the elusive Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), a nutty activist whose disappearance may provide some answers.
And it’s the death of the pornstar, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), that strikingly opens the film. An extended, funk heavy, opening theme pans down to a house and we see a young boy sneak into his parents bedroom to steal his fathers smutty magazine. At the exact moment he’s looking in silent awe at the centrefold model, we see a car careen down the embankment from the mirror over his shoulder and crash straight through the house. The whole sequence is somehow morbidly amusing, though even now I’m not entirely sure why? Of course it’s only the same model from the centrefold that appears before the boy, her dress ripped from her in the chaos of the crash. She only has time to mutter the seemingly gibberish line, “How d’you like my car, big boy?”, before succumbing to her injuries.
We’re then introduced to our leading pair in the form of several synchronous noir scenes narrated by both. Flashing back and forth between the two to provide the audience with a brief backstory before diving into the main story. These scenes do an insightful job of getting the two very different personalities across. March is the forlorn looking, struggling private eye, who is earning his cob doing investigative work for old ladies. Jack takes a more hands on approach to his work and the beating he dishes out to March in their first meeting perfectly encapsulates this. This first meeting between the pair is not entirely indicative of the blooming bromance that’s about to unfold with the latter’ inability to stop grasping for his gun earning him a potential “left spiral fracture” and a darkly humorous ear piercing scream. The parallel focus on both characters briefly continues. March follows up the beating and warning about tracking a potential lead in the Amelia case by going to the grandmothers house to inform her that he’s ending the investigation. His interesting father and daughter relationship is then somewhat perfectly summed up by a quick little chat between the two. “Tell me the truth and don’t take it easy on me because I’m your father. Am I bad person?” He asks her with a reply of “yes” coming back within a split second. Jack at this point has already been assaulted and taken as a prisoner by Blueface (Beau Knapp); the moronic villain of the piece, who earns his name by getting covered in dye. It doesn’t last long though and he soon turns the tables on his assailant.
Jack then tracks March down to a bowling alley where his daughters birthday is being held and after a funny standoff involving a toilet cubicle, they decide to join forces to investigate the disappearance of Amelia together. Shortly afterwards the pair of them end up at a seedy, surreal party, mingling with pornstars and all manner of other craziness, joined by a gate crashing Holly (Angourie Rice), March’s barely pubescent daughter. We see the trio go about fishing for details. Becoming progressively more drunk as the night goes on and even taking a dip with a pair of mermaids at one point. March develops a penchant for falling from heights and takes a tumble off a balcony into a wooded area only to stumble across Amelia and a dead porn director. Gosling’s facial expressions and reaction to the corpse are genuinely hilarious, as is the non-plussed manner in which he tells Jack about his earlier swim. Holly, meanwhile, talks herself into trouble and a flurry of action erupts. Several fights, a drunken car chase, plus a hit and run later and Blueface is lying dead whilst Amelia has made a run for it. They’re then introduced Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger); the secretary of justice and mother of Amelia. After giving a believable version of events, she hires the pair to find and protect her daughter.
The next day March is nursing a hangover though still drinking and a small slip of paper found at the party by Jack is the only lead they have. After a moment of seeming, logical, clarity by March, the self confessed worse detective in the world, the duo head for an apartment block in Burbank only to find it’s been demolished for two years, crushing his new found hubris almost immediately. They then end up running into a path of destruction at an airport hotel and a hitman going by the name of John Boy (Matt Bomer). Initially fleeing the scene before turning back, Amelia then falls onto their car and ends up back at March’s house, where she admits to starring in a porn film involving Misty, so she could help bring attention to a air pollution conspiracy involving her mother and Detroit cars. Following, a dream sequence that resembles what I’d imagine an LSD trip to be like and yet another car crash, it quickly becomes evident that they’ve been betrayed by the secretary. A shootout with John Boy then follows and an escaping Amelia makes her last dash into the crosshairs of the hitman. After yet another eureka moment from March, this time he’s on the money, the focus turns to airing a duplicate reel of the film found in Amelia’s, grandmothers house in an attempt to gain justice and expose the whole conspiracy. Many shootouts, chase scenes, falls from height into pools later and a bitter Judith is put away. The car company ends up getting off scot free however, but the new bromance is solidified with the ‘Nice Guys’ investigative agency being formed.
The leading pair of Gosling and Crowe deliver two tremendously entertaining, funny performances. The former playing the bumbling, drunk with sorrowful undertones to perfection. The latter playing the rather portly, brute with a sensitive side equally well. They both appear to have great on and off screen chemistry and it really helps the film and their performances. Angourie Rice almost steals the show though as the young daughter with a mental maturity well beyond her years. Her characters presence acts as the glue which binds March and Jack together. She should be commended for such an assured performance at a still relatively young age. I couldn’t discuss the acting performances without giving high praise to the banter and deadpan delivery of humour between the three, which at times was absolutely hilarious.
Having missed this during its summer 2016 release, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It did a good job of sprinkling in dark humour with some fairly violent moments and it had a decent little story which kept me intrigued throughout. I’d highly recommend giving it a watch.