Jamie Kennedy's favorite movie review site
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look53.85%
Just Average: 46.15%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

2 reviews, 1 rating

Latest Reviews

Come True by Jay Seaver

Prisoners of the Lost Universe by Jack Sommersby

Stand Alone by Jack Sommersby

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm by Rob Gonsalves

Playing with Fire by Jack Sommersby

Dragnet by Jack Sommersby

Keep the Change by Jack Sommersby

Suspect by Jack Sommersby

Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something by Rob Gonsalves

Trial of the Chicago 7, The by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

Nice Guys, The
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"The Other Angry Birds"
4 stars

“The Nice Guys” is a film that feels like what might have resulted if a nervous studio executive had taken a look at an early cut of “Inherent Vice” and decided to take the project away from Paul Thomas Anderson and give it to his 14-year-old nephew. The film has the same hazy 70s milieu and neo-noir trappings shot through with bits of pure goofiness as the earlier film but cranks up the gratuitous violence, nudity and foul language to staggering extremes. I hasten to point out, however, that this is more of an observation than a criticism because while “The Nice Guys” is nowhere near as good as “Inherent Vice,” it does offer viewers enough fun, albeit of the decidedly adult variety, to make it worth a look, even if most of it will fade from mind within a couple of days of watching it and the stuff that does stick does so largely because of its moral and ethical dubiousness.

If you have any doubts as to whether or not this film, set in Los Angeles circa 1977, is for you, they will be answered in the very first scene. In it, a young boy sneaks into his parents’ bedroom late one night to sneak out a porno magazine from under their bed to drink in the splendor of one Misty Mountains. While he is doing all of this, we are able to witness via a living room mirror a car careening out of control before ending up in a spectacular crash. When the kid ventures out to look at the wreckage, who should be laying near-death in the middle of it but Misty Mountains herself, naked and in more or less the same pose that she struck in the magazine centerfold. This moment is more or less a litmus test for the rest of the film because if the volatile combination of sex, violence and children in potential peril on display there disturbs or upsets you, you should probably flee the theater right then because it has hardly begun to stretch the surface. The scene also confirms that the film is indeed the brainchild of writer-director Shane Black, whose screenplays such as “Lethal Weapon” and “The Last Boy Scout” have often kicked things off with an exceptionally over-the-top moment designed to grab moviegoers at all possible cost.

From that point, the film introduces us to its two anti-heroes, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling). Healy is a sort of rent-a-goon who will politely advise anyone bothering a client of his to refrain from doing it in the future, usually between the opening sucker punch to the face and the spiral fracture to the arm. March is a low-rent detective who is trying to manage his meager caseload (one client asks him to look for her husband, who has been missing since his funeral), the raising of his 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) and the nursing of a fairly spectacular drinking problem. The two cross paths initially when Healy is hired to stop March from searching for a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) and inevitably roughs him up in the process. Later that day, however, Healy himself is accosted by a couple of goons who are looking for Amelia as well and after giving them the slip, he finds himself in the awkward position of going back to March to find out what he knows and to seek his help in finding the now-endangered Amelia.

As it turns out, March was hired by the aunt of Misty Mountains, who is convinced that she saw her niece a couple of days after she turned up dead. It seems that both she and Misty worked together on an “experimental” film that was made by Amelia’s boyfriend but now the film is missing and those involved with it are beginning to turn up dead with surprising regularity. Healy and March, sometimes with Holly in inadvertent tow, begin prowling the streets of Los Angeles for clues and begin to uncover an ever-widening conspiracy that somehow manages to involve the porn industry, a Department of Justice official (Kim Basinger) charged with prosecuting the Big Three automakers for colluding to keep the catalytic converter off of the market and a baby-faced killer named John Boy who is also desperate to get his hand on both Amelia and the film and is perfectly content to mess up anyone who gets in his path.

Over the years, I have been of two minds in regards to Shane Black. On the one hand, as he proved with the original “Lethal Weapon” and his hilarious 2005 directorial debut “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” he knows how to create a high-concept project that deftly combines action, comedy, colorful characters and bits of pure weirdness in undeniably entertaining ways. Other films that he has been involved with, such as “The Last Boy Scout” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” have tended to be exercises in pure stupidity with hackneyed plots, one-dimensional characters and action sequences that tend to teeter over the line into outright sadism (that opening football game sequence in “The Last Boy Scout” still bugs me to this day) and which also have a disturbing tendency to arbitrarily throw children into the mix in a cheap effort to maximize tension without putting any real effort into it. (Perhaps the only film he has been involved with in which this schism has not proven to be a factor was “Iron Man 3” and that was presumably because Marvel was calling the shots on that one.)

In the case of “The Nice Guys,” both Shane Blacks have come out to play and the result is a film that mixes moments of genuine inspiration with others that will leave you wondering what he could have possibly been thinking when he decided to put them in front of a camera. On the down side, one of the major flaws is the fact that the plot is a convoluted mess for the first two-thirds before devolving into near-total incoherence. Of course, one could argue that as a L.A-based noir, it is merely following in the shaggy-dog footsteps of “The Big Sleep” (the Bogart detective classic with a storyline so skewed that not even its own authors could definitively say who committed one of the murders) and “The Big Lebowski.” In those cases, however, the plot convolutions were at least intriguing enough to keep viewers involved in what was going and were at least building to some kind of point on while Black almost seems to be making the whole thing up as he goes along and not in a good way—the final scenes are kind of enraging in the way that everything related to the narrative is just thrown out the window, literally in some cases, for a barrage of punches, gunshots and explosions. There are some neat ideas that crop up but he doesn’t seem to have any idea of how to properly deploy them—having built up the alleged contents of the missing film to a ridiculously tantalizing degree, he then drops the ball by only giving us the barest taste of the actual contents.

The thing that really bugged me about the film was they way that Black again puts young kids in danger throughout in what is ultimately an empty bit of button-pushing. Now I am not trying to suggest that I am the type to be clutching my pearls whilst yelping “Think of the children!” by any means but I would argue that when it comes to kids and their participation in over-the-top action extravaganzas, a.) there is a line between heedless fun and borderline sadism and b.) “The Nice Guys” crosses that line far too frequently for my tastes. It is funny, I suppose, to have Healy and March arrive at a wild party thrown by a porn kingpin to search for Amelia and discover that Holly has stowed away in the trunk so that she can help. However, it is much less amusing when, after having been sent home by cab, Holly returns to the party and Healy stumbles upon her blithely watching a porn film with one of its stars while trying to get information on her own. (And no, this is not the case of a 13-year-old who looks much older than her years.) That is bad enough but things gets even more off-putting later on when John Boy arrives to wreak havoc, at one point picking up a friend of Holly’s and throwing her through a plate-glass window. To me, that is going a bit too far for comfort and the fact that Black makes a point of showing that the girl somehow went through the window with nary a scratch somehow only makes the whole thing worse than better.

Those are ugly moments indeed—the kind that make you want to take a Silkwood-style shower afterwards—but the good news is that for every one of those low moments, there is something that is genuinely inspired and oftentimes hilarious. One of the most surprisingly endearing things about it turns out to be the comedic chemistry that develops between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, two excellent actors who are not necessarily famous for displaying comedic chops. Here, they are both get big laughs throughout—Crowe effectively spoofs his tough guys persona as the slightly-past-his-prime Healy, a guy who will beat you senseless but is at least polite about it (unless you piss him off, of course) and Gosling is strangely endearing as the fairly incompetent but undeniably good-hearted March. (His Lou Costello-inspired reaction to his inadvertent discovery of a dead body is arguably the funniest thing in the film.) Much of Black’s dialogue is hilarious as well, though way too profane to repeat at any length here, and his handling of the action sequences, at least up until the final reels, is also kind of inspired—there is a great bit involving an elevator ride to a penthouse confrontation with a bad guy that does not develop in the expected ways. In addition, the whole thing looks and sounds great thanks to Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography and a hit-pack soundtrack that does an effective job of recreating the era (though a couple of anachronisms do crop up here and there—Black deploys the Rupert Holmes schlock classic “Escape (The Pina Colada Song” even though it didn’t come out until 1979).

“The Nice Guys” is not a perfect movie by any means and if one were to rank the great action/comedy’buddy movie hybrids of all time, it does not hold a candle to the likes of “Freebie and the Bean,” “Midnight Run” or the original “Lethal Weapon.” That said, it is still a lot of fun—especially if you are old enough to have lived through the late 80s-early 90s era when films of this sort ruled the multiplexes—and contains any number of big belly laughs amidst the carnage. Not only does it give viewers one of the most unexpected comedy teams in recent memory in the form of Crowe and Gosling (a.k.a. the other Angry Birds), it actually leaves them wanting more once it is all over. All Shane Black needs to do is spend a little more time tightening the storyline and a little less time putting his on-screen children into martial jeopardy and a follow-up film might actually turn out to be as good as this one could have been.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27907&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/19/16 15:57:30
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

2/20/17 morris campbell deft blend of crime&comedy 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  20-May-2016 (R)
  DVD: 23-Aug-2016


  DVD: 23-Aug-2016

Directed by
  Shane Black

Written by
  Anthony Bagarozzi
  Shane Black

  Ryan Gosling
  Russell Crowe
  Margaret Qualley
  Angourie Rice

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Privacy Policy | | HBS Inc. |   
All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast