Film Review – The Nice Guys

Directed: Shane Black

Writer: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice 

Tagline: “They’re not that nice”

Trivia: The signage at the fuel station showing EVEN refers to the 1979 rationing of fuel to the vehicles with number plates that end in even or odd number on alternating even or odd-numbered days. For instance, if today is 3 April and your numberplate has ABC-827, you can fill your car on that day. Some states allowed both even and odd numbers on 31st of month.

Sunday night is my hubby’s night to choose a movie in our place. Usually I suffer quietly at his choices and explain later why the movie was so bad…

Imagine my surprise when out of the blue he came with this fun and enjoyable movie. Immediately I wanted to watch it again just to catch more of the brilliant lines and the great comedy that is part of this excellent action comedy.

In his book “Save the CatBlake Snyder gives us the 10 types of movies, which one of them is the classic ‘The Buddy Story” which is one of the most used ones from the early days of Hollywood.

That’s just to show us that before our emotionally literate, twenty-first century world invented the idea of the “bromance”, we had the buddy comedy.

Writer-director Shane Black’s is experience in such movies (Lethal Weapon and the fantastic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). The Nice Guys is another enjoyable action comedy with a cheerfully arch return to this tradition.

The Nice Guys is the story of two messy and incompetent private detectives in 1970s Los Angeles, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling), who have been expensively paid to solve the mystery surrounding the death of a missing porn actress.

The Nice Guys is a dark comedy that takes place in a time in which Kennedy is dead, poverty is on the rise, corruption is widespread, the Hollywood sign is falling down and porn is as successful as the auto industry.

It’s really about people trying to keep their heads above rising waters, and what it takes to maintain some facade of decency in an increasingly indecent world.

And yet Black is smart enough to not make his leading men into saints. Everybody in this cesspool of a city gets a cut, even the good guys, as set in a time period when a 13-year-old can be the only remaining, decent voice of reason.

Along with Black’s trademark elaborate one-liners there are moments of outright slapstick, such as an inspired scene where embarrassed Holland is cornered in a toilet cubicle.

Gosling takes the comedic lead and Crowe seems happy to play the straight man. Gosling shows his appreciation for the history of great comedy teams like the Marx Brothers and especially Abbott and Costello.

In one scene where he’s scared, he mimics the classic Lou Costello inhaled wheeze.
He nails it!

Holland is a pathetic figure, but Gosling makes his stylized ineptitude endearing and even graceful: when his daughter calls him the worst detective ever you accept the verdict’s accuracy while feeling his pain.

For all its in-jokes, The Nice Guys is a very traditional private-eye story. It shares many of the hallmarks of old Raymond Chandler adaptations such as Howard Hawks’s version of The Big Sleep or Robert Altman’’ adaptation of The Long Goodbye.

Both those films had a strong vein of self-mocking irony too. As buddy movies go, it has enough mockery and originality never just to seem like a cynical rehash of a kind of film that has been made countless times before.

Though Black still doesn’t know how to write women, unexpectedly he manages to give Angourie Rice, March’s daughter, Holly, a role that steals the show.

Not only is she charming and very funny, but also her comparative maturity reveals something almost tragic about these hopelessly antiquated masculine archetypes.

We laugh both at and with them and roll our eyes when their incompetence leads to farcical scenarios, but, crucially, we empathize with them too.

Verdict – 4.5/5 Stars in my book


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