THE NICE GUYS Movie Review
At points wildly irreverent, but also undeniably entertaining, The Nice Guys represents all that is good in a Shane Black film, and, unfortunately, some of the bad.
Directors come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and personality types, each with their own unique style that they are able to impart onto the audience while telling their story. Some have a tendency to “stamp” their movies with this stylistic flair, making each of their movies instantly recognizable no matter how little the stories may resemble one another. Shane Black is one such director, and although he may not have the clout or filmography of a Kubrick, Spielberg, or Tarantino, his films always have a distinct feel to them that is extremely familiar. Black has only directed three feature films to date, but his writing credits include the creation of the Lethal Weapon franchise and 2005s kooky comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so the man does have some weight behind his name. The Nice Guys is Black’s latest offering and yet another foray into the world of action comedy that he has had great success in.
The plot of The Nice Guys is simple enough on paper, though a great deal was hidden from the marketing due to how muddled the story begins to get as the film continues to run. At heart is a central conflict that persists throughout the film, but the details become more and more complicated with no real reason for it. The simplistic answer is Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe must join forces to find Margaret Qualley before the people who aim to harm her are able to get to her. In actuality, while that does not change, there are multiple twists and turns which feel unnecessary and only add to the hectic nature of the film. The best moments in The Nice Guys occur when the simplicity of the story origins are allowed to flow smoothly, but when it begins to evolve and additional elements are added, the story simply cannot handle the extra baggage and the film suffers for it.
The unfortunate overstuffing of the film is its largest flaw, and by a wide margin. Gosling does well in his heavily comedic turn as an alcoholic father who seems to frequently mess up his life no matter how hard he tries not to. Gosling is funny, charming, and almost heartfelt, but there are far too many unexplained flaws and holes in his character to ever feel an attachment to him and the backstory he is given. Crowe is equally entertaining and occasionally heartfelt, with some added charm, in his turn as a pseudo hit-man-for-hire. Crowe and Gosling play off each other very well in executing the humor in Black’s script and are clear standouts. Angourie Rice does well as Gosling’s daughter, often finding herself looped into the trouble with both men and handling herself just as well as they do. Matt Bomer is also acceptable in his small, eccentric role.
However, audiences will not flock to theaters to see The Nice Guys to witness an Oscar caliber acting performance, writing, dialogue, or story. People want to see something fun and entertaining and, luckily, that is where Black is able to deliver. The script is hectic and all over the place, but it works to the benefit of the often cartoonish personalities displayed by Crowe, Gosling, Rice, Bomer, and Margaret Qualley, who plays the role of Amelia, the MacGuffin of the film. The sometimes brutal violence plays well with the manic wit of Black and his characters and the absurdity breeds hilarity more often than not. Regardless how you feel about the plot and characters making any sense, it is enjoyable to watch them try to figure it out amidst the constant chaos.
Simply put, The Nice Guys is an often hilarious, noir crime caper flick set in the 1970s involving one and a half bumbling detectives trying to find a missing girl. Pair the normally stoic Gosling with the often tough Crowe, but with Gosling now assuming the role of a much weaker character, and Black is able to achieve surprising comedic results. Though there are moments where the humor borders the camp-value line, it stays within itself enough to remain slightly grounded even during its zaniest moments. Is it ridiculous? Yes. Does it always make sense? No. Is it the most memorable of Black’s films? No. Does it have to be? Not if you are willing to suspend disbelief, sit back, and enjoy yourself.
The Nice Guys is written and directed by Shane Black and stars Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice.