Movie Review: “The Nice Guys” – Guns, Intrigue, Whores and Stuff

Written by Jesse Gelinas May 27, 2016

Hollan meets Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys

The buddy movie is a personal favourite of mine. Two unlikely partners team up to bumble their way through a mystery, usually littered with dead bodies, incriminating photos, and dangerous women. Classic. Shane Black reinvented the subgenre thirty years ago when he wrote Lethal Weapon, and he seemed to perfect it when he wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Now, he’s just having fun with it, and the results are tremendous. The Nice Guys takes all the promise of KKBB, turns it on its head, and makes an awesomely funny detective romp.

The Nice Guys starts where any good detective story does: 1970s L.A. A car runs over a cliff, a girl ends up dead. Another girl goes missing. Hard men in dark suits are asking questions. And two private dicks are on the case. Holland March (Ryan Gosling), and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) meet when Healy is paid to rough up Holland to push him off a case. They soon find themselves forced to work together when a missing girl seems to be tied to a much bigger case involving dirty politics, public manipulation, murder, and the porn industry.

“You made a porno where the plot is the point?”

The film kicks off with a classic noir feel as March and Healy narrate some backstory and give us a glimpse into their seedy lives. Healy, the reluctant muscle for hire; March, the amoral and perma-drunk private eye and failing father. Crowe and Gosling bring such energy and hilarity to their roles that they just click from their first scene together. Like with Downey Jr. and Kilmer, Shane Black continues his perfect track record for delivering great on screen chemistry. The two of them play off each other like any of the great buddy legends, and both display fantastic comedic instincts and timing that we haven’t really seen from either before.

Ryan Gosling as Holland March in The Nice Guys

The supporting cast is full of colourful characters; another Shane Black trademark, finding ways to make every minor character distinct and memorable. Keith David (The Thing, Requiem For A Dream) and Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) both have brief but crucial roles, and are fun to see as usual. Matt Bomer (White Collar) shows up as a merciless assassin and is actually quite creepy. The impressive standout is Angourie Rice as March’s daughter, Holly. I do have to credit the young actress, but I believe Shane Black needs some praise as well. He has a knack for finding child actors with talent, and writing child characters that don’t annoy. A rare gift these days.

“Sweetheart, I told you, don’t say ‘and stuff.’ Just say ‘Dad, there are whores here.'”

The plot is as convoluted and nonsensical at times as you’d expect. Conspiracies abound, and somehow the Justice Department, the porn industry, and Detroit automakers are all connected. Our unlikely heroes cruise around L.A. running into protesters, porn stars, hit men, and all manner of trouble, with bodies piling up. There’s even a trippy dream sequence leading into the third act that had me giggling continuously for the next few minutes. Somehow though it all meshes just right, never seeming confusing or unnecessarily silly. And the humour never drops, even when death is imminent. I found the film much more enjoyable than 2014’s similarly themed Inherent Vice, which certainly boasted great performances, but felt obtuse and overly long. The Nice Guys managed to be funnier and maintain great performances without becoming a chore to watch.

Holland March is having a rough day in The Nice Guys

in the end, The Nice Guys shows what a great writer/director can do when he’s got the right cast and the right passion. Shane Black has been knocking it out of the park for almost thirty years (minus a rough patch in the 90s), so it is great to see him finally coming back into the mainstream. Gosling and Crowe should definitely consider more comedy in their eclectic careers. Fans of buddy films, detective novels, or just film in general need to make this movie a top priority.

My Rating: 9/10

Theatrical poster for The Nice Guys


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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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