Genre: Action and Adventure, Comedy
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger
Release Date: May 20th, 2016
The Nice Guys is the type of adult comedy that we don’t see that often anymore. Set in the 1970s, more about the film features two male leads — played respectively by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling — who are thrust into a conspiracy when they are hired to solve the mystery of a missing porn actress. Packed with nudity, and violence, the film’s greatest asset lies in its ability to pepper its mystery with physical comedy, great one-liners and a few really memorable moments.
Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a rough private eye who is often hired to threaten and intimidate certain individuals. He’s rough, weary and cynical. “Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate,” he notes in an early voice-over. One of the first people he intimidates here is Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a fellow investigator who was hired to find the missing porn actress (her aunt said she saw the actress alive after a car accident seemingly claimed her life).
Because he believes one of his clients is in danger, Healy decides to team up with March to solve the mystery of the missing actress.
It’s here where director Shane Black (the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) sets up one of his best physical comedy bits. This one features March sitting on a toilet while attempting to threaten Healy, who watches in mild amusement. Even in the midst of this carnage-filled story, Black often finds ways to find humor in the situation and this sequence is a perfect example of that.
That humor is reliant on both the script (co-written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi) and both lead actors, who seem willing to give their all here. Gosling is especially impressive as a goofy, greedy and alcoholic investigator. The Oscar-nominated actor hasn’t done much comedy before but he seems at home in this genre as he yelps, cries and stumbles through the action.
It definitely helps that Angourie Rice co-stars as March’s daughter, Holly. Her more serious personality helps ground Gosling’s character. It’s easy to become cynical about Holland but with his daughter telling him that he’s not a nice person and that he’s the worst investigator ever, Holland is forced to do the right thing even when he doesn’t want to.
For that matter, Holly also helps Healy find a bit of humanity as well — a difficult task considering that Healy feels no hesitation before killing one of his enemies.
There are a few moments here though that seem too crass to really work, including a scene featuring a young boy on a bike who offers to show off his private parts to the investigators. Additionally, a scene featuring Holly at an adult party and watching an adult video is very off-putting. The feature is clearly for adults but it’s a bit grating when some of the young people here discuss such things.
The story itself could’ve used some work as well as the final conspiracy comes off a bit strange. The porn film that becomes a major component of the mystery seems like a silly thing to rest the plot on and Kim Basinger is sadly wasted here as well in a thankless supporting role as a Justice Department official.
Aside such elements though, The Nice Guys is a funny adult film that really lets the two leads shine. Fans of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon (a film that Black co-wrote) will be pleased with this throwback comedy.
Review by: John Hanlon