The Nice Guys Review
By Anthony Zangrillo
Shane Black brings his lethal weapon fame to a by-gone era in an unorthodox and hysterically groovy detective film. The master of action-comedy dialogue maintains a frenetic pace that constantly flips the script on the audience and the film’s dubious protagonists. Ryan Gosling (Holland March) was born to play this role, continuing his hot streak of recent films. Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy) flexes a new curmudgeon side that brings a fresh take to a heavily over-done character in the genre. The real star of the film is the brilliant plot that will constantly subvert audience expectations. What amounts to a complex and winding plot is broken down into digestible exposition that emphasizes the utter lunacy of the film’s events.
Admittedly, I have always been lukewarm on the wildly volatile career of Ryan Gosling. I paid no attention to Gosling’s early career, which catered to younger female audiences. However, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love caught my attention, while Ides of March and Only God Forgives soured my views on the star. Recently, The Big Short appeared to under utilize him, a mistake not repeated by The Nice Guys. Gosling expertly balances the intricacies involved in making his character morally reprehensible yet ultimately sympathetic. The under-achieving private investigator is beaten-up and disenchanted with the harsh realities of life. The only way to sustain his failing practice is to lie and cheat, yet he only wishes to succeed in order to provide his daughter a good life. As the film progresses, new layers of the timid and sleazy character’s personality creep off the screen. The audience learns of Holland’s addictions and see his struggle to legitimize his life and find happiness. Constantly striking against this dramatic undercurrent belies Holland’s bumbling and aloof demeanor standing in the way of his idyllic ending.
Diametrically opposing Holland’s personality is the rough and tough Healy. The intimidator operates with the precision of a surgeon, while showcasing his pragmatic view of the seedy underbelly of crime. The backstory for this broken down man is expertly summed up in one short line and a split second flashback shot. While additional details come to light as the film progresses, they are merely fantastical exploits designed to build the mystique of the brooding loner, while laying-up some comedy gold for Crowe and Gosling. Healy also evolves as a character, although his change is a tad bit predictable and overdone. By the time the final scene finishes, I was expecting another genre shocking twist, but the demands of a franchise and sequel possibility slightly dilute the film’s ending.
One of the best surprises is Matt Bomer’s role. I will not say anything about this nice surprise, but it is a new direction for the actor, and I hope to see him shine in similar roles in the future. Traces of Director Black’s signature, memorable dialogue pop up in every single scene. Somehow, Black takes normal everyday events and places them on a crash course with unpredictable and uncontrollable situations. For instance, this film has one of the greatest openings in action comedy history, sufficiently establishing the zany tone of the feature, while giving a memorable scene to a throw-away character. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but there are so many times that the film smartly breaks with action “tradition” in order to fully keep the audience’s attention.
The creative success of this new IP will hopefully result in a respectable box office. In the wake of the box office tumble of Batman v. Superman, Warner Bros. has insinuated that they will refocus their efforts on “event” movies, rather than distinctly unique films helmed by creative juggernauts. However, a film slate is never set in stone. If “The Nice Guys” brings a respectable revenue haul back to the studio, hope remains for future risk-taking behavior. The film establishes two complex and in-depth characters, while masterfully evolving the protagonists’ arcs as their relationship grows. On top of the stellar character development, Black throws in the right amount of unexpected surprises, while ensuring that every scene is chock-full of memorable and side-splitting dialogue.