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The Nice Guys – Joint Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 20 May 2016 (USA)
 
Director: Shane Black
 
Writer: Shane Black - Anthony Bagarozzi
 
Cast: Russell Crowe – Ryan Gosling – Angourie Rice – Margaret Qualley – Keith David – Kim Basinger
 


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Posted May 28, 2016 by

 
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The Nice Guys – Joint Review

Larry’s Perspective:

The Nice Guys’ is a very male film. I know it stars Ryan Gosling but director Shane Black, the one-time million dollar screenwriter, doesn’t cater to the ladies. One of his movies, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ started out as a romantic comedy before Black cast Robert Downey Jr and an overweight Val Kilmer. What is all this ‘bromance’ stuff anyway? They called them buddy movies back in the day and they’re buddy movies now. You don’t argue with Shane Black. At the screening I attended, you don’t even chastise him for puffing on an e-cigarette indoors.

Black’s payback for not screwing up ‘Iron Man 3’ – making a hit film for the Marvel Cinematic Universe is practically a hall pass – is to resurrect a script he wrote with pal Anthony Bagarozzi. Who’s he? Back in 2000, Bagarozzi and his pal Charles Mondry bagged (pun essential) $1 million for their spec script, ‘Tick-Tock’ about an amnesiac bomber who is tapped by the FBI to retrace his steps and disarm his devices. It was a real-time thriller. Why didn’t the film get made? My theory is that the TV show ‘24’ killed the real-time vibe for a movie. Plus someone finally caught up with the lustre-lacking ‘Nick of Time’ starring Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken. Bagarozzi now had a reputation but if you ask any writer, earning $1 million for a single script is the straight road to under-employment. No other writer loves you – except Mr Black who was in the same enviable boat.

Set in the late 1970s – a poster for ‘Jaws 2’ puts us closer to ’78 than ’77 – ‘The Nice Guys’ is about a tough guy for hire, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) who takes small jobs to get by. In his first scene, we see him punch out a guy for making out with an underage girl. Healy has been hired to track down private investigator and single dad Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to stop him looking for Amelia (Margaret Qualley). She’s on the run from some unsavoury types because … heck, I ain’t saying. What I will tell you is that the plot doesn’t bear much scrutiny. How does Amelia know March is looking for her? How does she get to hire Healy? Why is she so hard to find? None of these questions are answered. If you think these questions are worth answering, you’re probably some poor guy living at home with his mother. (That, by the way, is a Shane Black line.)

As a young screenwriter, Black redefined the buddy movie with the ‘Lethal Weapon’ franchise, produced by Joel Silver, who also made this. The formula is simple: pair a mad cop (Mel Gibson, before he got mad at cops) with a partner (Danny Glover) on the edge of retirement. What counts in a Shane Black movie is the banter, the badinage. Black relishes in dialogue as a delaying device. He doesn’t like action, rather the bit before the action, the screaming during the action. He does not like zingers either. The line ‘total wipe out’ in ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ is not his.

When two thugs – the flip version of Murtaugh and Riggs from the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series, one black one mad – turn up in Healy’s office looking for Amelia (he invites them to trash the place, he knows the deal), he seeks out March and together they form a reluctant alliance – reluctant on March’s side, Healy broke his arm. Gosling underplays as the panicky foil to Crowe’s tough guy, but Crowe is dialling it down, telegraphing his moves.

Neither March nor Healy are about to get their head turned by a femme fatale; March has a teenage daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) who is almost his minder. Plus, in movies, widowers should grieve for their dead wives because that’s what makes them sympathetic. Black doesn’t do Screenwriter 101, rather its next door neighbour Screenwriter 103.

The running joke is that Healy doesn’t drink. When they first meet, Holly offers him a soft drink. She gets him, it’s implied. Healy is like the lion with his thorn removed around younger women. He’s not a predator. Crowe is particularly good at playing the calmed lion who explodes at others. As an actor, he has nothing to prove because he’s done it already. His chemistry with Gosling’s louse-up March (who does drink) gives the film its comic charge.

There are topless models in ‘The Nice Guys’ – but no sex. This finally is what the title refers to. It’s a back-handed comment on what women (in men’s eyes) think of as ‘nice guys’. This is precisely why ‘The Nice Guys’ won’t appeal to women, unless they can excuse the joke. The villain is named John Boy (Matt Bomer) after the heart throb in ‘The Waltons’ TV series – that’s also a joke aimed at women. It even wastes Kim Basinger, in her first film with Crowe since ‘L.A. Confidential’ as a character who has her reasons to find Amelia.

The humour is on the coarse side. Nevertheless, I had a good time watching it. It breaks a genre rule near the end which is nice to see and is quality popcorn entertainment. The jokes don’t linger in the memory – I don’t remember much about Black’s first film as director, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ either.

What is it with Black and memory loss? His million dollar script was ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ about an amnesiac, eventually made with Geena Davis and an underwhelming (by his standards) Samuel L. Jackson. Women liked that one, but it under-performed at the box office. Worse, it led to ‘Cutthroat Island’ – eminently forgettable also.

Written by:

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 15.56.21

Larry Oliver
@LarryOliverFilm
Full Contributor

 

Michael’s Perspective:

Los Angeles, 1977. Holland March is as much a private dick as he is a con-man. Whilst “searching” for an almost-certainly dead porn star, heavy-for-hire Jackson Healy bluntly introduces himself. Sleazy gunmen and the LA Department of Justice force the two together in looking for the elusive Amelia; a girl who can hopefully tell the Nice Guys why porn industry people are turning up dead.

Jackson Healy narrates the opening in first person and already there is a noir feel. Russel Crowe plays Healy as damaged and quietly angry but when given the chance he can be quite sweet. He emerges from Mr. March’s house, having just broken his victim’s arm and casually chats with March’s daughter about lemonade on the door step. There is a vulnerability there too. When talking about saving diners from a manic gunman, he quietly says,

“It’s the first time I felt useful.”

More lovable lug than thug. While Healy plays the straight man, Gosling’s Holland March is pure comic foil and in an old-fashioned way too. The Lou Costello reference is hilarious. Any progress made is completely by accident. March is irresponsible, liable, clumsy, cowardly, squeamish and your cheeks will hurt watching him blunder his way through everything.

March’s daughter Holly carries many of the qualities her father lacks. As cowardly as Holland is, Holly is equally brave and foolhardy. The relationship between Holly and Jackson is particularly charming. There is one concern worth mentioning; Holly insists on joining her father and Healy on their investigations, one in which takes them to a porno pool party. She’s meant to be 13 and though the intention may have been to convey maturity, inappropriate feels like a weak adjective.

The production design is terrific; 70’s soul, muscle cars, outlandish clothes, questionable hair. The woes of a pre-smartphone time show when Holly tells her friend to quit gossiping on the big Bakelite while her father has been trying to phone in an urgent warning. Is modernity, with its constant connectivity, a harder time to place thrillers in? Today certainly ain’t as glamourous.

Holding this wonderful web of sleaze and corruption together is Shane Black. After the rocky rewrites his work of the past has been through, he’s proven without a doubt that the person best suited to handle his material is himself. Despite the comedy being what’s most marketable here, the characters come with nuance and react to loss in their own ways; Healy beats on low-lives and March drinks himself into fully clothed baths. As for the Nice Guys getting along, it’s the bickering of Golden Age Hollywood double acts heightened with

all the profanity and violence the Hays Code never allowed. If Tarantino had more self-control, he could be more like Shane Black.

The Nice Guys is a jumpin’, jivin’ neo-noir comedy. Wicked writing, effortless performances and brilliantly silly gags make Shane Black’s latest a must-see.

Written by:

10990897_947809968572240_8068008592644517359_n

Michael Keyes
Silences Band
@mkjk1990
Full Contributor

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