D: Shane Black. DP: Phillippe Rousselot. W: Shane Black & Anthony Bagarozzi. Starring: Ryan Gosling/Russell Crowe/Angourie Rice/Margaret Qualley/Yaya DaCosta/Keith David/Matt Bomer/Lois Smith/Jack Kilmer/Kim Basinger.
This summer a new duo has joined the streets in an original story by action genre wiz kid and Lethal Weapon creator Shane Black. Also a co-writer and the director of Iron Man 3, Black returns to his roots so to speak with a witty film that has just the right amount of homage to 1970s action films to be fresh, but not overcooked.
Black finds his duo in Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Not the most likely pairing, but believe me it works. Gosling plays Holland March, a weasel of a former detective who squeezes the most money out of every job he can. A single father to a 13 year old girl, Holly (Angourie Rice), his business is certainly paycheck to paycheck in more ways than one. During his investigation into the disappearance and death of a pornography actress he crosses hairs with Crowe’s Jackson Healy whose been charged with keeping men clear of Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley). In the name of justice Healy throws his weight around for a living with plenty of middle aged machismo. Thrown together they soon realize the puzzle they are dealing with is a lot bigger than they knew.
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, The Nice Guys has a vigorous vintage feel in its construction as well as its trimmings. The credits and music grafts the 70s onto the Los Angeles skyline with its blinking yet homogeneous skyline that draws all sorts of characters into its bowels. The setting works to keep the investigation tools simple and humor brings lightness to a genre overlaid with one-liners and serious courage. Costume designer Kym Barrett (Jupiter Ascending, The Amazing Spider-Man) does not over do the period with Amelia’s flashy yellow gown a particular favorite along with Tally (Yaya Dacosta’s) jumpsuits and Afros. The production gets all its 70s weird out with one go at a Hollywood party that houses mermaids and contortionists.
This duo suffer from March’s excessive drinking and Healy’s inability to deduce anything from clues. The pairs chemistry drives the story rather than the other way around and each time Gosling appears with his caste arm ripped through another suit you have to chuckle. Crowe is a love-able brute here and keeps up with Gosling’s quieter mumbling. Neither actor brings shtick and perhaps this is because they both, for the most part, play serious roles. The script brings in the daughter Holly just enough to break the action and build protective tension between the men. Rice’s Holly is a clever and sassy kid who is a good sounding board for the duo and whose good instincts actually help the case. Maybe it’s time to bring back Harriet the Spy? Happy to see the female voice was not ignored in this film.
Black paces The Nice Guys exceptionally so that by the time you are ready it is over. He seems in command of the material and does not pull gags. Gosling in particular does well with his surprise delivery as he keeps surviving falls and mayhem. Now working on a revival of The Predator with the same producer, Joel Silver, it should be fun to see what Black brings up next. Here’s hoping another The Nice Guys comes our way as I sure hope to see Gosling saying ‘no’ like a child does when you take his toy. Granted he was about to get his arm broken, but it is still comedy gold.
Have not seen the trailer yet? Catch it here: The Nice Guys trailer