Unfortunately I did not see The Nice Guys in theaters. It came out during a crowded summer and for such a smaller film, it really worked against it. Now that the movie has been released on home video, I am saddened that I missed it while it was in theaters. In a summer full of disappointments, this movie certainly would have shined. Not to say that it was a perfect film because it isn’t. But it’s probably my favorite Shane Black directed film.
Set in 1977 Los Angeles, down on his luck private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) team up to find out about missing girl, Amelia Kutner. Holland is a widower and alcoholic raising his one teenage daughter, Holly. Jackson is more of a schlub than anything else. They only encounter one another because Amelia is a person of interest to a case Holland is working and Amelia hires Jackson to intimidate Holland. Needless to say, the two do not start off on the best foot. But after Amelia goes missing and Jackson himself is threatened by hired thugs, he knows he needs Holland’s help.
The movie would not work without the chemistry between the two leads. Russell Crowe is one of the best working actors today and he is mainly known for his tough guy roles. Here he still gets to play the tough guy but one with more flaws than anything. Healy is overweight and living above a comedy club with only his fish as companions. When Holly offers to pay Healy to beat up her girl friend, Healy entertains the idea. It certainly is played for laughs but one gets the feeling that he would do it, if payed the right amount. Gosling plays more the comedic element to Crowe’s straight man. March is constantly drunk throughout the film. It would be hard to sympathize with him considering he has his 13 year old daughter drive him around because he’s too drunk to drive. But we learn more about March as the film goes on and needless to say he has had a rough few years. It helps that while he may be a drunk, he never neglects or abuses his daughter. Gosling has always been an actor who dabbles in both comedic and dramatic but here he is more comedic than ever. The chemistry between the two is great.
The plot is typical noir. There is a missing woman and the protagonists have to investigate the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles to find her. Since then is a Shane Black film, there is a much more zany element to the film noir. Almost all of the characters have a goofy charm to them and even in more serious elements, the comedy never lets up. But it never gets too comedic where you lose track of the stakes as there is murder left and right. There is a particular moment where a dead body is found where you get a grasp of how serious things are but it is still hilarious especially Russell Crowe’s more subdued reaction to the situation at hand.
The supporting cast helps flesh out the world. Kim Bassinger has an extended cameo as the mother of Amelia. She plays the role of the grieving mother well. Keith David and Beau Knapp as two recurring thugs make the most of their limited screen time. Matt Bomer appears as an assassin only known as “John Boy” due to his resemblance to the character from The Waltons. Bomer shows up pretty late in the film but does make an impression as the somewhat charming but nonetheless efficient killer. The real standout is Angourie Rice as Holland March’s daughter, Holly March. It is obvious that she has had to grow up faster than expected with her mother dying and her father becoming a drunk. She knows that her father is a good man but has some issues and is not afraid to cut him down when he needs to be. This eventually extends to Healy who becomes something of a cool uncle to the young girl.
I am not the biggest fan of Shane Black films. I guess I should clarify that I mean his films that he has written and directed. I think Iron Man 3 is an okay movie. One that quickly undercuts what it set up in the beginning. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which is considered the comeback of Robert Downey Jr. is a really good movie but one that I did not connect to like everyone else. This film was something I could get on board with more. It might have something to do with the leads who I was already a big fan of before this movie. But I found myself enjoying the movie from beginning to end. It is well crafted and tight from beginning to end. I could not see any leaps in logic that usually accompany a mystery. If you have not seen this film, it is now available on most platforms to rent or buy.