The Nice Guys 

 

Half

 

 

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling team up to play mismatched private eyes in a very sleazy 

Los Angeles of 1977 – from Shane Black, creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise.

 
Nice Guys, The

Sleazy slapstick: Ryan Gosling, Daisy Tahan, Angourie Rice and Russell Crowe

 

These guys are anything but nice. Ryan Gosling, channelling Ryan Reynolds, plays Holland March, a chain-smoking alcoholic whose daughter calls him “the world’s worst detective.” And he’s not only a terrible detective, he’s a terrible father. Russell Crowe, who’s beginning to resemble John Goodman, plays Jackson Healy, a private eye who speaks with a knuckleduster and kills way too many people in the line of duty. Still, compared to the denizens of the sleazy world of Los Angeles in 1977, these are the nice guys, as everybody else seems to be homicidal, corrupt or partying on the wrong side of the law. Two cases – the apparent suicide of a porn star called Misty Mountains and the disappearance of a missing ‘actress’ – throw March and Healy together, although it’s March’s precocious 13-year-old daughter (Angourie Rice) who does most of the solving.

 

This is a buddy movie suffused with 1970s’ nostalgia, borrowing much of its visual style from Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and its theme tune from Shaft. It’s also a licence to promote Shane Blake’s singular style of misogyny, which its setting in the porn industry and predilection for swinging parties gives it free rein to spotlight. Shane Black, creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise and director of the tough and hilarious Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, makes movies for the boys, sprinkled with his now characteristically irreverent and snappy dialogue. Here, the conversation is a little more smart-alecky than smart, although the incidental humour often hits its mark (a female passer-by comments to her girlfriend: “…all I said was that if you want me to do that, stop eating the asparagus”).

However, the slapstick tone of The Nice Guys owes more to Adam McKay’s The Other Guys than L.A. Confidential, the latter also set in a sleazy bygone Los Angeles with Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger. Here, Kim Basinger turns up in two scenes but, following her much reported plastic surgery, looks more alien than the authoritative Justice Department official she is meant to be playing. No Oscar for her this time.

 

The film’s throwaway violence is also highly unpleasant, in which a running gag seems to be the dispatch of innocent bystanders, while Gosling’s idiot PI is a major irritant, complete with high-pitched squeal. The real star of the picture is the young Australian actress Angourie Rice, who steals every scene she’s in and roots the film in a modicum of credibility. Less successful is Margaret Qualley (daughter of Andie MacDowell) as Basinger’s absentee daughter, whose hysterical shtick is another aggravation. Still, there’s enough casual wit, convoluted plot twists and unapologetic jokey nostalgia to keep the film’s core audience delighted.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger, Lois Smith, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Ty Simpkins, Gil Gerard, Daisy Tahan.

 

Dir Shane Black, Pro Joel Silver, Screenplay Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, Ph Philippe Rousselot, Pro Des Richard Bridgland, Ed Joel Negron, Music David Buckley and John Ottman, Costumes Kym Barrett.

 

Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/RatPac-Dune Entertainment-Icon.

115 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 3 June 2016. Cert. 15.