There is obviously a lot going on. Of course, with The Nice Guys, that’s precisely what is happening. Enter Mr. Healy (Crowe), Irish-American tough guy and “problem solver” working cash-in-hand for anyone and everyone; Healy having a comedic edge that most audiences will not have seen from the versatile New Zealander.
After tracking a “stalker”, Healy comes across Mr. March, a recently divorced and profoundly alcoholic private investigator (Gosling), introducing himself in his own brawny way. Astonishingly, a broken wrist and a few claps to the moustached face of Mr. March gives way for a rather striking and unlikely partnership.
Better known for his writing credits, director Shane Black brings the memorable chemistry of Riggs and Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon anyone?) and ultimately recycles the formula to construct two very likable characters in Crowe and Gosling, as well as incorporating his own pedigree as an action screenwriter of the eighties, utilising a concoction of slapstick, adult humour and heart-racing action.
With that in mind, recycling such a formula turns out to be rather inventive and unexpectedly creative. The film’s narrative is not engulfed by constant, rocket-propelled action that audiences of today are used to seeing in the cinema, nor does the hilarity feel forced like many preceding films that have expended the “buddy-cop” blueprint. Black produces an appealingly strong narrative, which, despite feeling rather predictable at times, delivers in the way audiences desire. Most of the humour emerges from the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe; with their very juxtaposed and distinctive personalities, it’s more of a “opposites attract” situation, Crowe establishing himself in the “tough guy” or “muscle” role, and Gosling as the “talker”, along with his questionable detective skills. T
The Nice Guys captures the 70s era very well, giving that nostalgic dimension very early on via the use of music and imagery associated with the era in the opening credits. By also emulating the time’s promiscuous nature and embracing the styles of action and comedy from films of that era, it all feels very fresh, blowing away the cobwebs of that Lethal Weapon formula, which one might say could make the film a wee bit flimsier.
Something that really stands out from the rest of today’s take on the “buddy-cop” and action film genre, is how time is utilised. There are what one might call, faults in the script, which essentially create space for longer and slower scenes. However, through fast cutting and well arranged editing, we get straight to the point of most scenes. Essentially, the film just keeps the wheel turning.
For example, the film introduces itself and main plot line in the opening few minutes, getting straight to the point. Because of how clear said introduction is, it stays in the back of one’s mind, and so as the story on-screen unfolds, the audience can begin to make their own conclusions surrounding Misty Mountain’s death and the people and events associated with her unfortunate demise.
This film is not without it’s faults of course. There are a number of moments which feel reprocessed, or something that is too close to what we have seen before. In some cases, the events of the film seem somewhat predictable and cliché, particularly in the scenes towards the film’s end. There are also slight issues I have with the script, which sometimes feels like it is trying too hard to mash together modernity and the 70s style in some of the scenes of dialogue, something unfortunately taking away from the illusion of spending 116 minutes in 70’s LA, which also has an affect on how the comedy is translated.
However, despite these small errors, Gosling and Crowe’s performances make the weaker and more fragile areas in the film better than one might expect, reflecting the power of two strong leads, as well as actress Angourie Rice who plays Holly March. There are various scenes in the film which realistically, one might think they shouldn’t work, but the two leading men are vastly entertaining, with both straying away from their usual repertoire of serious, complicated characters.
Both Gosling and Crowe have created characters that are just as compelling as those previous performances, perhaps even on the level of Crowe’s portrayal of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (2001) or Gosling’s turn as the Driver in Winding Refn’s Drive (2011). Gosling is particularly enjoyable in his scenes with young Rice, who plays his daughter Holly. Not only is the chemistry between the two well-defined, but the unorthodox way that Holly’s character has been written and the way youth has been portrayed by Black makes for great competition and even rebellion towards her father, which adds depth to both father and child, subsequently rubbing off on Crowe’s Mr. Healy, allowing for character development across the board, whilst still maintaining what one comes to love most about these new and imaginative characters.
Shane Black’s latest production, The Nice Guys is in short, delightfully entertaining for the audience, and rejuvenating for a genre which frankly has been and gone, with an enjoyable script, sharp and authentic humour and a hugely enjoyable on-screen coordination between the films two male leads. Without taking itself too seriously, The Nice Guys hits the spot. Though it may not be locked away into action-comedy legend, it certainly feels like the love-child of a bygone era, from one of the best minds in the genre.
The Nice Guys is now showing at FACT. Find out more about the discounts you can enjoy when you become a FACT member.