The Nice Guys, directed by Shane Black, is an absolute joy to watch. This is a film that is filled with greatly defined characters, the stylistic look of the 70’s, and a story that keeps you (for the most part) engaged. The Nice Guys is one of those films that you just settle into and enjoy; no hassle, no boredom. So what is it that works so well in the film and what is it that doesn’t? Let the review begin, and we’ll see what’s what.
The story in The Nice Guys follows private detective, Holland March – played by Ryan Gosling – and hired tough guy, Jackson Healy – played by Russell Crowe – team up to solve a case that involves a murdered porn-star and young girl who is on the run from people who want to see her dead. The unlikely pair embarks on a journey involving laughs, shoot-outs and some greatly timed antics; all with the back drop of the 70’s.
The absolute strength of ‘The Nice Guys’ is its characters. Front and centre are some hilariously brilliant performances by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. There is an instant chemistry between the two and it constantly makes for some great bantering. What also adds to it all is how the two characters (Holland March and Jackson Healy) approach a situation. Both have styles that are counterintuitive, and so it always makes for outcomes that are unexpected and fun. While one will happily punch and shoot his way out of a situation (Jackson Healy) the other would prefer to swindle a little more money out of the client and not actually do any work (Holland March). Such opposite dynamics means you always know a stressed but funny argument is around the corner, and an outcome that will surely have you laughing.
But Gosling and Crowe are not only great together but also by themselves. There are layers to the characters, layers that actually flesh them out as individuals. I liked that the film kept me laughing because of the characters, but it also took the time to slow down, sit me down and take the time to expand on ‘Holland March and Jackson Healy’. The film could have easily left them as nothing more than comic-salvo’s, which without a doubt would have left something missing from it. The film is lucky enough to have the combination of characters who work great together and also apart.
Backing the two up is an unexpectedly standout performance from Angourie Rice, who plays the young daughter of Gosling’s character, Holly March. Unlike most children in films similar to ‘The Nice Guys’, Holly is not an inconvenience, nor does she become a predictable damsel in distress who is captured in the most silly of ways. She holds her own and is actually a valuable asset to not only the main characters but also the fun of the film. It’s nice to see a character such as Holly work so well in a film where it usually doesn’t.
I think the only thing missing from the roster of characters is a clear antagonist. The film feels like it has a lot of dangerous or unpredictable henchmen, but no main bad-guy that you’re glad to see get their comeuppance in the end. John Boy – played by Matt Bomer – is perhaps the character who comes the closest to an antagonist that stands out as an actual threat, and he certainly delivers a memorable performance. But other than him, there isn’t really anyone else of worth to focus on. It’s yet another film that builds its leads up so well but forgets to inject an interesting or imposing enough bad-guy to root against.
What The Nice Guys absolutely nails – and the wealth of great characters play a big part in this – is the comedy that is actually – and this is a rarity these days… FUNNY. The film has a great mix of jokes that are really well written – and delivered brilliantly by its actors/characters – and physical humour that it perfect in the moments that it happens, and also never feels over-done or unending. What usually passes for physical humour today is a character being violently and suddenly struck by something and the laugh is supposed to come from the shocking nature of the incident. Then they’ll usually either repeat it or linger on it long after it was funny (if it is even funny in the first place). The Nice Guys plays its humour in a much more refined, smart way. But perhaps the most important thing about the humour in the film was it actually had me laughing – as were the rest of the people in the screening I was at. If I wasn’t smiling from ear to ear (which I pretty was for the majority of the film) then I was laughing out loud to a greatly timed/delivered joke. The humour is refreshingly reserved and constantly on point.
Alongside the great humour is some really fun action. The film quite successfully blends the two together; tonally the film gels really well. And it also takes the time to inject a little emotion into it. Nothing overly sappy or distracting, just enough to show the humanity of the characters, and that they are more than just joke machines who can never be hurt.
The story is the only thing I’m not 100% on. While it is certainly engaging, it never really pulled me in completely. It starts off simple enough and got its hooks into me, making me want to invest early on, but things kind of fizzle out in the third act of the film. When the day was saved and all had been righted, I didn’t really get that satisfied feeling from the resolution. The story builds in interest and excitement until a very sudden and unforeseen event, and then after that (event) the film loses a little steam. You don’t have a strong enough reason to want to see the situation resolved. I really enjoyed the story that the film constructed and presented, but in the end I was a little disappointed by… well the end.
This is still a film with a lot to love about it though. The film more than looks the part – from costumes to set design and even fun little nods to the era – and then of course there are all the reasons that I’ve already gushed about. The Nice Guys certainly slips up in areas (this is not a perfect film) but what I keep coming back to in my mind is just how much fun I had watching this film. Gosling and Crowe are unforgettably brilliant – also not forgetting the wonderful performance by Angourie Rice – and it’s been a long time since I actually laughed at the jokes in a film. So while there are easy to notice flaws, ‘The Nice Guys’ just gets so much right.
So I’m going to recommend ‘The Nice Guys’. The film for me was an absolute joy to watch and is one that I’ll be talking to people about for quite some time to come. This film is just such an effortlessly fun film to watch.
So what are your thoughts on ‘The Nice Guys’ or this review? Let me know in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date on my other ramblings, feel free to either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thanks for taking the time to read my review and have a great weekend, filled with what I hope are some good film watching experiences.