When you think of Shane Black what is the first thing you think of? Most of you might say Christmas since it is his signature touch to every film he has written and/or directed. But the thing you should know him for is buddy films. Not only buddy cop films, but buddy action, buddy mystery, or even a buddy superhero film [most specifically] Iron Man 3. And now his latest feature film, The Nice Guys, he takes his buddy action/mystery formula to L.A during the 70s.
In 1970s Los Angeles, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) and apparent suicide of a fading porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). During their investigation, they uncover a shocking criminal conspiracy which reaches up to the highest circles of power.
An instant aspect of the movie you get right off the bat that will make fall in love with it is that not only the film takes place in the 70s, but it also plays as if it was made in the 70s. The opening shot of the film the first thing you hear is the 70s bow-chicka-bow music, then you have the narration of your main leads and their day to day lives which was a prominent thing that films [especially detective ones of this type] did in the 70s. It continues for a while, but then after when you get to know March and Healy the narration drops and you’re on your way for the rest of the film.
What makes The Nice Guys such an entertaining film, is of course your main leads and their comedic chemistry. This film isn’t a comedy, but a majority of the film is very comedic. This film is centered on a mystery, but the film inserts comedy as an aspect to get the film moving at a steady pace. Gosling is a dumb alcoholic private investigator whose daughter is more of an adult than him, and Crowe is a tough guy with a heart of gold. It doesn’t take itself too seriously which is something that makes this film a lot of fun. This is all towards the direction and writing from Shane Black. How he gets his cast to have a certain charm to them with a distinct personality despite their plenty of flaws is outstanding. It isn’t all explained to you most of it is very subtle and has a distinct originality to it. He takes a lot of detailing of even the art of filmmaking from the shot composition to even the rule of thirds. It’s as if Black was in a film class and one of his assignments was to make his own 70s style film noir that relates to the 70s and has in his own personal style this was his project.
This movie isn’t only 70s, but it is 70s as fuck. It’s not bashing you over the head that this in the 70s, but it takes most of the popular things about the 70s and applies it to the story. You got hippies rallying over dumb things,the popularization of pornography, parties, even Earth, Wind and Fire. The way some of these are used in the film just strengthen the mystery the film is centered on. Even the brilliant cinematography captured by Philippe Rousselot [who has been the Director of Photography for films since 1970] brilliantly captures the look of the 70s. If the Nice Guys was made in the 70s, this would be a great movie for its time. Though it was fully completed in 2016, it is still a great movie. This is one of those timeless mystery films that manages to be unable to become outdated.
The cast the film has besides Crowe and Gosling is really good, but the one person that really stands out is Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter. She is the best written character in the movie. She is more mature than Gosling and does most of the detective work than her onscreen dad, but still has the charm of a little kid. She has sympathy towards others [even the people that try to kill her], but isn’t afraid to lash out at anyone.
Though the cast is good, some of the characters don’t have much to do. You have Keith David as a hitman who doesn’t do much except be a hitman when the script needs him to be. Matt Bomer is a more dangerous hitman who doesn’t do much except be a hitman when the script needs him to be. Its not like these really good actors are wasted, but they’re not really around to do much except be the source of some the thrills for the film which in the end is a really good thing.
At the Q&A for this film which I attended, one of the most memorable things Shane Black said was about films nowadays. He said that there are two types of movies that are really out there that are making a lot of money are big blockbusters with superheroes on one side, and Oscar bait on the other, but not much in-between except indie movies. Well to me, The Nice Guys is that great film in-between. It is that reminder why we love the 70s, why we love mysteries, why we love Russell Crowe & Ryan Gosling, and most of all why we love movies. The Nice Guys is a timeless caper that is well paced, greatly detailed, tightly written, and hysterically funny all the through that you would want a sequel for.