The Nice Guys
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
Review By Mike DeAngelo:
Before we jump into this one it’s important to note that I’m a huge Shane Black fan. Hell, I was raised on his movies and didn’t even know it. He wrote one of my favorite childhood movies called The Monster Squad (1987). Of course, that same year he wrote the movie that everyone really knows him for, Lethal Weapon. That movie sent him into the stratosphere of fame, money, drugs, booze, and glory. It also sustained his career for the next ten years while he churned out multiple similar, but less critically and commercially successful action flicks like The Last Action Hero, The Last Boy Scout, & The Long Kiss Goodnight.
After that point, he disappeared for seven years – supposedly, he decided to step away because he was tiring of the drunken lifestyle and his apparently awful reputation in Hollywood. When he returned to the film business with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (another personal favorite of mine), he not only wrote the film, but decided to try his hand at directing, as well. That film was not only important for his career, it was instrumental in Robert Downey, Jr. getting cast as Iron Man. Robert then returned the favor by lobbying for Shane to direct the successful, but under-appreciated, Iron Man 3. Using the modest amount of clout that he gained back, he decided to write and direct another detective story (surprise, surprise), in The Nice Guys. Yay, we’re all caught up!
So, now that I’ve revealed my affinity for Shane’s films while also giving you a mini history lesson on his career, is the damn thing any good? Absolutely. With this cast, it would be hard to mess up. Thankfully, Shane sticks to what he does best and provides the cast with everything they need to shine.
One thing Shane loves is unlikely detective team-ups. They’re present in basically all of his movies - first it was the squad, then Mel Gibson & Danny Glover, Damon Wayans & Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger & some kid, Geena Davis & Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr. & Val Kilmer, and Iron Man & Pepper/Some Kid again/Jarvis/Rhodey. In this movie it’s one of his most unlikely duos yet in Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. As you can already see in the trailers, they’re phenomenal with each other. Usually Shane sets one character up as the new guy and the other as the rugged, knowledgeable veteran. Here he deviates just slightly by letting both Ryan & Russell trade off as the dominant partner. At times they’re a regular Abbott & Costello type duo (Gosling even does a flat-out Costello impression mid-movie), while at other times they’re more Gibson & Glover. Regardless, they’re always entertaining.
Structurally, The Nice Guys is also pretty familiar to Black’s previous films:
Step 1: A couple of detectives working on solving seemingly unrelated crimes are tossed together.
Step 2: They discover that their cases are intertwined in a larger conspiracy.
Step 3: Investigative hijinks
Step 4: A climactic confrontation with the big bad guy & lots of shoot ‘em up action.
Step 5: Happy ending.
It’s predictable, but Black consistently does it in a way that feels fun and fresh. This is no different. In fact, The Nice Guys may be his most polished, professional, and fun effort yet, as Gosling and Crowe heighten the material by being endlessly amazing together. It’s also important to give a shout-out to Angourie Rice, who turns in a great performance as Ryan’s wise-beyond-her-years daughter.
Also, like any good period movie, the time period plays a role in the film, and it’s obvious that Shane loves the 70’s. The costumes, the cars, the set design are all on point, and give the film added depth and charm.
Black also wisely takes the happy ending and makes you question it a bit, giving the movie a hint of something political to chew on for the ride home.
In short, you’ve seen movies like this before, but Shane Black& the cast are good at making you not care. If you like a good detective flick with heart and humor, look no further, as The Nice Guys is an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours and a few bucks.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5/10 Bumbling Goslings