THE NICE GUYS
Review by Gordon Justesen
Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David,
Director: Shane Black
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2016
“Last week this old broad comes to me and she asks me to find her niece, Misty Mountains.”
“Misty Mountains? The porno actress? The one that died?”
“The young lady. The porno young lady.”
It’s nothing short of glorious to see a film like The Nice Guys emerge in today’s sequel/reboot/remake dominated movie market, one that’s purely original, extravagantly entertaining and plays to smart, adult moviegoers. Much like this year’s Midnight Special, it serves as a riveting exercise of mainstream filmmaking that’s also something of a throwback piece. Whereas Jeff Nichols’ film was a throwback to sci-fi movies of the 70s, writer/director Shane Black is doing the same for the buddy cop genre, which he helped originate as the writer of the first Lethal Weapon and , would later boldly satirize with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which this movie can be considered a distant cousin to.
But Black’s film, which he funded by way of the profits he gained from Iron Man 3, has many additional dazzling qualities. It’s also an engrossing noir mystery, a richly detailed period piece, and manages to deliver action, comedy and character depth in marvelous and equal spades. Every single facet of the movie is dead on, and as a whole adds up to the very type of solid entertainment package that Hollywood should be making more of.
The setting is Los Angeles in 1977, and the sudden death of an adult film actress garners interest from two entirely different private investigators. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a level headed but quick tempered sort who will track down or beat anybody up for a decent price. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a bit more unorthodox in his methods, but is nonetheless professional in spite of frequently hitting the bottle and raising an 11 year old girl (Angourie Rice) who doesn’t respect him.
At first, Healy is asked by a client of his, Amelia (Margaret Qualley), to have March back off her tail. But when she goes missing, and all leads possibly tie into March’s current investigation of the dead adult actress, the two reconcile and team up to solve the case. Before long, their trail leads them into the adult film underworld, which may be somehow tied in with the automobile industry along with a government official (Kim Basinger), who’s also happens to be the mother of the missing girl.
Crowe and Gosling effortlessly knock their roles out of the park here, ranking as some of the absolute best work to come from both actors. It’s a delight to see Crowe let loose in a more comedic role, while Gosling goes absolute bonkers with his character is a truly winning way. But perhaps the biggest scene stealer is young Angourie Rice as Gosling’s no-nonsense daughter who ends up tagging along with the two on their investigation, even when it leads them to a porno party!
And not since Boogie Nights has a single film nailed (pardon the expression) 1970s LA with such authenticity. From the cars to the music to the clothing, Black doesn’t miss out on a single detail in getting the period absolutely right. At one point, you can even spot a nightclub marquee with the names Richard Lewis and Tim Allen, who were both struggling stand up comics at the time.
Even though it consists of elements you have seen used in other movies of this sort, The Nice Guys is unquestionably a cut above most of what’s being offered at the multiplex these days and is very high on my list of the year’s best films. Perhaps it was all a matter of timing. I hope Shane Black continues his winning streak of films like this, because they are certainly needed...especially for guys like me!
1970s LA looks even more appealing courtesy of what might be the single best HD presentation I’ve seen all year. This Blu-ray release from WB is spot on right from the appearance of the studio’s 1970s era logo (always a nice touch). The picture exudes beauty and slickness in both daytime and nighttime sequences. Colors look absolutely astonishing, and overall picture detail is stunning from beginning to end.
The DTS HD mix also serves up a whopper of a presentation. The film has a lot going for it in the way of sound, especially concerning the soundtrack, which consists of great songs by Earth, Wind and Fire, The Bee Gees and many more. What more can be said about a film that opens with The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and closes with Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”? Dialogue delivery is also in terrific form, and the presentation gets an added boost from a good number of car crashes, shootouts and brutal beatings, all of which are heard in succinct, stunning form.
A movie like this deserved so much more in the extras department, but for now we get two neat but way too brief featurettes; “Worst Detectives Ever”, which features brief interview bits from cast and crew, and “Always Bet on Black”, which focuses on the writer/director.
The Nice Guys is simply a textbook example of ultra-cool cinematic fun. Shane Black’s vision of 1970s film noir, combined with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling’s pitch perfect performances help to make this the surefire badass action comedy package that it is! Not to be missed!