Movie Review: The Nice Guys (2016)

“Nice pair”

3 Stars
The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys (2016)


Director: Shane Black

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice

Synopsis: An enforcer and a down-at-heel private detective join forces to investigate the death of a porn actress in 1970s Los Angeles..

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Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, Winter’s Tale), who looks more rumpled and lived in with every passing movie, is a perfect fit to play Jackson Healy the rumpled, lived in muscle-for-hire who finds himself teaming up with Ryan Gosling’s (Drive, Gangster Squad) alcoholic detective in The Nice Guys, a 1970s-set action comedy from writer and director Shane Black, who made his name with the Lethal Weapon movies back in the ‘80s.

Healy was hired by a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) to dissuade March from following her: a mission he accomplished with admirable efficiency.   However, upon returning home from that job, he’s attacked by two men looking for Amelia.   He’s telling the truth when he claims not to know her whereabouts, but after escaping from his interrogators he’s concerned enough for Amelia’s safety to pay March a second visit to find out what he knows.   It turns out that March was hired by a woman who mistook Amelia for her niece, a porn star with the wonderfully evocative name of Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) whom we earlier watched die after the car she was driving, ploughed over a clifftop and through a house.   Poor Misty’s last words were ‘How d’ya like my car, Big Boy?’, which just happens to be the title of an ‘experimental’ movie made by Amelia and her boyfriend, who also recently met an unexpected end.   When the two men decide to pool their resources they find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy that reaches to the top of the Department of Justice.

The plot sounds more convoluted than it actually is, but even if you should lose your way, The Nice Guys is so consistently amusing that you’ll probably enjoy being lost.  The relationship between March and Healy has faint echoes of the one shared by Murtaugh and Riggs back in ’87, although the gulf between their character types is not so broad.   In fact, Healy and March both occupy a place on the spectrum considerably closer to Riggs’ position than Murtaugh’s, although Healy at least has a enough common sense to try and rein March in during his more manic moments.   And luckily, when both men hit a deductive brick wall, March’s daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), who’s smart without being too precocious, is on hand to help figure things out.

Black, co-writing with first-timer Anthony Bagarozzi, plays to his strengths with The Nice Guys, and his re-creation of the ‘70s wisely avoids going over the top.   The dodgy hairstyles and dreadful fashions might be in evidence, but they’re never allowed to become a distraction, while affectionate references to ‘70s movies and TV shows are subtle enough to avoid intruding on the flow of the plot.   In an age in which every other movie seems to feature bickering superheroes, it’s indescribably refreshing to find a movie that harks back to an era when a movie relied on the strengths of its characters, the personality of its stars, and an involved plot to entertain its audience.   No doubt, the kids will stay away in their droves, but most adults will be gratified to find a funny, irreverent movie that’s aimed at them for a change.

(Reviewed 5th August 2016)

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