The Nice Guys

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Shane Black

Starring

Kim Basinger Russell Crowe Ryan Gosling

Anticipation.

Once you go Black…

Enjoyment.

Filthy, funky, what’s not to like?

In Retrospect.

A defiantly old-school action comedy that delivers big where it really counts.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are irresistible in this salty shaggy dog yarn from Shane Black.

Joy is watching Ryan Gosling roll backwards down a hill in the dark. In Shane Black’s rollicking rough-and-tumble buddy movie, the characteristically unflappable Canadian star is required to take a spill multiple times, always at precisely the most inopportune – and thus hilarious – moment. He also barfs, bickers, shrieks, swears, weeps and falls down some more in a demanding physical comedy role that sees him give ’90s Jim Carrey a run for his money. But more of that later.

You often hear actors, when questioned on their reasons for committing to a given project, reel off the same pat answer about how it’s all about the script. Well, this one by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi (who’s on co-screenwriting duties for Black’s upcoming Doc Savage, as well as Adam Wingard’s Death Note) really is a doozy. Fast, funky and furiously entertaining, this is the sort of down and dirty picture you can imagine top-ranking studio execs frothing over back when Hollywood still produced smaller, genuinely subversive movies for mainstream audiences. You know, back when “rebooting” meant switching your Commodore 64 off and on and the wall and comic book movies invariably contained more Spandex than CGI.

It’s not just the costumes, the scuzzy ’70s setting, the flawless soul-and-disco soundtrack; in the best possible way The Nice Guys actually feels like it belongs in a different era. Gosling’s eyeballs must have jumped out of their sockets – Tex Avery style – when the script landed in his in-tray. There’s just so much good stuff here, including but not limited to: method acting eco warriors, a blue-faced assassin, Kim Basinger, several stacks of shot-up corpses, two coy mermaids and a giant talking bee.

As ever with Black’s films, the journey is more important than the destination. The plot slams into gear when an actress known for cheap bongo flicks (under an alliterated, innuendo-laden alias, naturally) turns up dead in suburban Los Angeles, apparently the victim of a freak car accident. On the case are Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Gosling), a pair of low-rent private detectives who decide to team up when it transpires that the pornstar is in some way connected to an elusive young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). From here things get progressively stranger and stickier for our seasoned antiheroes, and they quickly come to realise that solving the “crime of the century” is going to be about as straightforward as shooting invisible fish in a bottomless barrel.

Just as he did with the Lethal Weapon series and his 2005 directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black exploits his film’s mismatched central dynamic to full comic and dramatic effect. Dry quips and put-downs abound. Occasionally Healy and March come to blows. In truth their constant sparring is by turns endearing and exhausting. Yet while the jokey camaraderie hits its mark for the most part – with Crowe at his bristly best and Gosling pinballing about the place with palpable relish – the film would simply fall apart were it not for the grounding presence of another character.

Quite unexpectedly, it’s relative newcomer Angourie Rice as March’s intrepid daughter, Holly, who steals the show. Not only is she charming and very funny, but her comparative maturity reveals something almost tragic about these hopelessly antiquated masculine archetypes. We laugh both at and with them and roll our eyes when their ineptitude leads to farcical scenarios, but, crucially, we empathise with them too.

Published 2 Jun 2016

Tags: Russell Crowe Ryan Gosling

Anticipation.

Once you go Black…

Enjoyment.

Filthy, funky, what’s not to like?

In Retrospect.

A defiantly old-school action comedy that delivers big where it really counts.

Read More

Ryan Gosling has always been funny, it’s just taken everyone a while to notice

By Nick Chen

With The Nice Guys the Canadian star shows he’s a comedy performer worth taking seriously.

Ryan Gosling: ‘When I was a kid we lived with Elvis for a year’

By Adam Woodward

The Lost River director reflects on his childhood and ponders the myth of the American Dream.

Eight of the most outrageous buddy cop movies

By David Hayles

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe’s antics in The Nice Guys got us thinking of other memorable mismatches.

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design