The Nice Guys (2016)

  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime
  • Director: Shane Black
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Matt Bomer, Angourie Rice


Set against the backdrop of 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys opens when single father and licensed PI Holland March (Gosling) is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of famous porn star Misty Mountains. As the trail leads him to track down a girl named Amelia (Qualley), he encounters less licensed and less hands-off private eye Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe) and his brass knuckles, both hired by the young hippie. However, the situation takes a turn for the worse when Amelia vanishes and it becomes apparent that March wasn’t the only party interested. As both men are forced to team up, they’ll have to take on a world filled with eccentric goons, strippers dressed as mermaids and even a possible government conspiracy.


  • (RATING: ☆½ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: A bubble-headed rehash of crime thrillers and buddy movies.
    GRADE: D+

    SYNOPSIS: Two inept detectives try to unravel a mystery during the groovy 70’s.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Take the popular buddy movies of the 80’s, add the retro good vibes of the 70’s and quickly stir in the grisly blood and violence of the 90’s and voila!…you have a half-baked movie entitled The Nice Guys, a film with no identity to call its own. To any unsuspecting moviegoer sitting through this dreadful rehash, the age-old adage, nice guys finish last, becomes all too true.

    The setting is L.A. during the mid 70’s. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe play misfits Holland March and Jackson Healy, a couple of low-life PIs who join forces to solve a convoluted mystery involving a missing girl, a porn starlet, and how two distinguished actors can pick a real loser.

    This alleged comedy is directed by Shane Black, whose previous experiences with this crime genre, like Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has shown the filmmaker to have had some relative success. Here, he is more concerned with capturing the seventies era with his references to killer bees, rationed gas lines, disco music, and pong video games than delivering an entertaining and logical film. His screenplay, co-written with Anthony Bagarozzi, is a total mess. Its plot frequently detours to violent chases and shoot-outs as it tries to connect the two unsolved cases and add some far less clever one-liners between the assorted mayhem. The crime and the comedy elements rarely align unless one agree that this comedy is indeed a crime and a waste of time and talent.

    The casting of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, two actors known more for their heavy dramatic roles rather than their light comic style, seems off from the start. When it comes to the high art of comedy, the track record of both actors is spotty as best. (While Mr. Gosling has had some success in this area, with film projects such as Crazy, Stupid, Love and Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Crowe’s comedy film credits include only Noah, a true laugh-riot.) Together, the two leads have zero chemistry between them.

    Their foray as two wild and crazy guys is a dismal failure. Their so-called comedy bits are labored and bereft of humor. In fact, in one desperate scene, Mr. Gosling tries to channel the comic timing of Bud Abbott’s double take which elicited groans rather than laughs from the audience. A paunchy Mr. Crowe is briefly united with an air-brushed Kim Basinger, his LA Confidential co-star, in a brief scene or two. Let us just say time has not been kind to either star and move on from there.

    In supporting roles, Matt Bomer is underused as John Boy, a paid assassin, and  Beau Knapp as a blue-faced killer is more annoying than menacing. The talents of fine actors like Keith David and Lois Smith are squandered in this dreck. Only Margaret Qualley as Amelia and Angourie Rice as Holland’s wiser-than-her-years teenage daughter create real characters, but that is due to their screen presence rather than the dialog they are spewing. (Both actresses make a strong impression and do deserve better parts.)

    The film is interminably long, makes absolutely no sense, and has no laughs…none! The Nice Guys makes for miserable company. Avoid.

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  • A thoroughly entertaining slice of nostalgia noir, The Nice Guys features the unlikely and surprisingly successful comic pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as mismatched shaggy dog detectives in 1970s Los Angeles.

    Los Angeles may be City of Angels, but it is also a boulevard of broken dreams where smog strangles the skies and sleaze is the oxygen inhaled by the denizens. It’s been a playground for the likes of private eyes Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Lew Harper, and Jake Gittes, all of whom often discover new circles of hell as they track dangerous dames, dirty cops, dirtier politicians, and lecherous lowlifes. The Nice Guys upholds the template but injects the seaminess with slapstick, not entirely unexpected considering Shane Black made his name by penning the screenplay for Lethal Weapon and his directorial debut with the tart and tarty Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

    The death of porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) kickstarts the plot. A young boy comes across her naked body, her pose a grotesque imitation of her centerfold image. A brunette in a yellow dress (Margaret Qualley) may hold the key to Misty’s not-so-accidental demise. The brunette is Amelia and she is a very wanted woman. Some very bad men, including the creepily-banged John Boy (Matt Bomer), are after her to shut her up or kill her – same difference in this world – for knowing too much for her own good. She might be saved by Jackson Healy (Crowe) and Holland March (Gosling) if she wasn’t busy running away and if they weren’t distracted by their aggressive and amusing bantering.

    Healy is a thug for hire – he may work for anyone who’ll scrape together a few bucks, but he was principles. He’s impeccable at his job and Crowe imparts an almost gentlemanly solicitousness to Healy that makes him the perfect straight man to Gosling’s always-soused, ever bumbling, and spectacularly invincible March. Indeed, Gosling proves himself a deft physical comedian, whether throwing himself off a balcony, rolling down a hill and coming to an upright position with drink firmly in hand or, in one of the film’s most hysterical moments, fumbling with a bathroom stall door, pointing a gun, and trying to keep a magazine over his genitalia.

    The story meanders a mite too much at times but Black keeps things moving with zingy bon mots, well-staged sequences such as the eventful party at a porn producer’s abode, and the free-for-all finale that takes March’s pratfalls to absurd new heights. His production team vividly recreate 1970s Los Angeles as a toxic paradise.

    There’s a great deal to like about The Nice Guys, chief among them the gifted Australian actress Angourie Rice as Holly, March’s wise but unjaded thirteen-year-old daughter. Qualley is slightly shrill as the petulant Amelia and Kim Basinger, reuniting with her L.A. Confidential co-star Crowe, is almost embarrassingly stilted as Amelia’s high-powered mother. Considering Qualley is the real-life daughter of Andie MacDowell, it’s a minor mystery as to why Black went with Basinger instead of MacDowell.

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  • Shane Black scripted two of my favorite buddy cop films in 1987’s Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. With The Nice Guys (my latest review), he directs and sadly his direction is much better than his writing.

    “Guys” playing like an art house version of “Boy Scout”, is a mixture of clunky dialogue and bone-crunching payoffs. Whereas that 1991 film had a fair amount of nasty wit, The Nice Guys seems to be all look and no feel. Billed as an action comedy, “Guys” is patchy kitsch and contains two actors (Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling) that completely strain for comedic timing. Sure its setting of 1977 Los Angeles is light film noir and variably flawless. However, that’s about all the movie has going for it. These “nice guys” don’t finish last but they come real close.

    Shot beautifully in a darkened haze, “Guys” unfortunately is sloppily edited, contains songs that came out after 1977 (“Boogie Wonderland”, “September”, “Boogie Oogie Oogie”, etc.), and unjustly features 70’s relic Gil Gerard in the opening credits (was he in the movie cause I just couldn’t tell). Basically this picture is not the best way to get your Me Decade fix. Boogie Nights, a film that also dealt in the pornographic industry and City of Angels backdrops, is truly a better option.

    Now the story of “Guys” which is based on true events that happened to a real-life marine in the late 90’s, has little reason to occur almost 40 years ago. With the exception of skin flick interludes and visions of old school movie projectors, it could have taken place in any time period.

    The main character is Private Detective Holland March (played by Ryan Gosling). Gosling’s March smokes and drinks so heavily, he teeters close to having liver and/or lung cancer some twenty years down the line (I’m not kidding). March gets paid to find people and now he’s on the lookout for a missing girl named Amelia Kuntner (played by Margaret Qualley). Somehow someway, Amelia is connected to a dead porn actress named Misty Mountains (great name). On hand to help March in his quest is Enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Whereas March’s job is to find missing persons, Healy’s job is to beat people up. Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) plays a murderous villain named John Boy and Kim Basinger makes a cameo as Amelia’s two-faced mother. With heighten sound effects editing, “Guys” is loud, violent, and the in-jokes are few and far between. I had to rely on the random chuckles of the audience to see what was funny or not.

    In conclusion, I remember seeing the trailer for The Nice Guys in February. I automatically thought that the casting of Crowe and Gosling was interesting and sort of out of the box. After seeing the finished project, I realize it doesn’t really work. At times it felt like they were in separate movies altogether. Crowe looks a little bloated while Gosling tries too hard to be funny. In truth, Ryan Gosling stumbles around “Guys” and the whole time I was kind of hoping he would turn to his forte which is the dark side (remember Ryan in Drive?). Some much for that. The one bright acting spot in “Guys”: Australian actress Angourie Rice (she plays March’s daughter). She has that “it factor”. I mean I’m not saying she’s Meryl Streep but the girl could be a big movie star someday. Rice is like a charismatic, Reese Witherspoon mini me. She’s all coiled up with energy and some serious, glowing enchantment.

    Bottom line: The Nice Guys with its locations looking more like sumptuous movie sets than actual, recreations of L.A.’s Hollywoodland, litters its script with the name “Amelia” and the words “find Amelia”. It does this so many times you could make a drinking game out of the entire, two-hour running time. As for the procreated bearing, well Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography for “Guys” is the high point until it evaporates due to the flick’s manic choppiness. During the final act of The Nice Guys, Gosling’s March quips, “I think I’m invincible… I don’t think I can die”. This movie, well I think its staying power isn’t invincible and I think its box office take will die a little. Soon. Rating: 2 stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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  • Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck private eye in 1977 Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate turns them into unlikely partners after a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. Healy and March soon learn the hard way that other dangerous people are also looking for Amelia.

    This is one of my most anticipated films of 2016. After watching the trailers, it’s pretty easy to figure out why. It seemed to have the right amount of action, drama and comedy. I also couldn’t think of a more unlikely pairing than Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling which made the film intriguing to me. The proverbial cherry on top was writer/director Shane Black who previously wrote/directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3.

    The first thing you’ll notice is the authenticity in its depiction of the 1970s; there’s ample attention to detail in its portrayal of 1977 Los Angeles. The film emphasized this early on in how it established its two main characters, March (Gosling) and Healy (Crowe). March is an ethically-challenged, semi-slimy private eye. Healy is a more brutish, hard-nosed enforcer whose sole purpose is to beat people up. Crowe, but especially Gosling, excelled at this.

    Whether or not the film would succeed depended on the relationship between Healy and March, and it exceeded all expectation here. It seemed like Crowe and Gosling were genuinely having fun. They were both great individually, but their chemistry was what sold the movie for me. Scenes involving March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) was a surprise addition to the Healy-March dynamic.

    What championed all of this was the well-written script. The dialog was smart, engaging and hilarious. Since Healy fulfilled the necessary macho-ness, this allowed March to be the crazier one with more physical comedy and slapstick; the best being a scene involving a bathroom stall. Gosling was just excellent at this bringing lots of laughs and often stealing scenes. The film was full of quotable lines and moments which people will remember long after seeing it.

    The story on paper isn’t too original or exciting, but is so stylized that it often felt secondary to the setting and the characters. Since you’re focusing on Healy and March, it’s easy to forget what they’re doing. The plot itself is straightforward, but there’s still a lot going on in the meantime making the journey a little less mundane. Sure, it probably could have dropped some of these subplots to streamline things a little, but it was fine either way. The film also featured a great villain named John Boy (Matt Bomer) who was interesting and fun to watch, but the film never really gave him much of a chance.

    Overall, this is a smart, funny but mostly entertaining action movie led by great performances by Crowe and Gosling.

    Score: 9.5/10

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