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The Nice Guys – Movie Review

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The Nice Guys – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

The buddy cop movie is the type where teaming up two actors with great chemistry is actually more important than the central mystery. The Nice Guys follows the traditions of the genre, while applying a 1970’s setting to give it an extra dosage of coolness. Director/co-writer Shane Black previously tapped this well before with the meta Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and this proves to be a more than decent companion piece. He is a filmmaker who has studied all of the inner workings and necessary components when putting together a detective story and having his two stars play off each other.

The casting of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is key as both bring their personas to the roles. Crowe plays the tough guy, but there’s an arc that accompanies this personality trait. Gosling’s family man is drowned in booze, the drinking of which almost serves as a motif for his unorthodox and up-and-down style of case-solving. Their odd couple pairing works as Crowe’s straight man deals with Gosling’s frequent drunkenness. Gosling almost relishes in getting the chance to play this very physical part and the bigger laughs come courtesy of his comedic force of a performance. Yet despite these two accomplished actors, it’s Angourice Rice that leaves the biggest impression. She’s able to show an intelligence beyond her years without becoming the usual grating smart child protagonist. Her chemistry with the leads is solid and she becomes a valuable ingredient of The Nice Guys.

In the grand scheme of things, the missing person’s case is merely an excuse for the lead detectives to meet and team up. It’s all fairly standard, although tying it to the Golden Age of Porn in the 1970’s is a good touch. Black makes it fairly obvious who is behind everything early on, so we can relax and enjoy the snappy dialogue between the two leads. The audience is so ahead of them that a later dream sequence manages to be humourous without feeling like the plot has taken a sharp detour. When the entire case and motive is revealed and closed, it’s more like a shrug than a bang.

Shane Black gleefully revels in the 1970’s setting. Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography captures the pictures of the New Hollywood movement as The Nice Guys succeeds in transporting the viewer back to that era. The extended party scene might be the rare time today’s youth will get to experience the wild and cocaine filled craziness of the ‘70s in its full glory. Though one imagines watching it unfold on-screen is preferable to the real thing. The entire ensemble also look the part with the costume designers and hair stylists more than playing a role in giving them the proper appearance. Only Kim Basinger’s no-nonsense government official appears modern, not helped by her stale performance.

The Nice Guys doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Black still takes the audience on an entertaining and wild ride. Even with the predictability of the plot, the right tone and jive is established and Crowe and Gosling’s chemistry helps keep the viewer engaged. One can easily see this as an extended episode of a cop show that would have played opposite Starsky & Hutch on television back in the day. The screenplay is funny, sharp and constantly moving, all the while giving the actors complete freedom to be as physical and free-wheeling as possible.

Stefan Ellison

The Scene