Monday 6 June 2016
The Nice Guys
Of Nice And Men
The Nice Guys
2016 USA Directed by Shane Black
UK cinema release print.
I have to be up front here and say that I’m not the biggest fan of either of the two leads of The Nice Guys. In the case of Russell Crowe, that stems from some of his behaviour off screen when it comes to journalists and it’s nothing to do with his skill at the craft of acting, which he's obviously very good at and which really should be what I’m looking at with an unclouded view here, anyway. Especially since it seems to be a fact these days that any stories reported by various ‘news machines’ are either fabricated to cause sensation or are, at the very least, not often showing all the sides of a story. So I’ve been slowly going through a process of letting the guy off the hook over the last few years, as far as my appreciation of him as an artist is concerned, at any rate.
As for Ryan Gosling. Well, I’ve only seen him in Drive and, to be honest, although I was quite impressed with him in it, I really wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie and, again, it’s probably not something I should let put me off going to see another movie with him in. However, that’s how it is with these two actors and their effect on me and if I’d have only heard of the title of this movie and the principal leads, unfairly or not, you probably wouldn’t have gotten me into a cinema to see this one... that’s for sure.
However, I saw the trailer for this, which was quite engaging, and it also mentioned the writer/director of the movie and... that’s where I sat up to take notice. The Nice Guys is written by Shane Black, who is one of the all time great, modern screen writers with such classic, fun movies like the original Lethal Weapon movie, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and, yes, even Iron Man 3 to his name. He’s one of the few modern Hollywood scriptwriters I will bother giving some time to and this is the main reason why The Nice Guys was on my radar and why I got myself to a cinema to see it.
The other reason was because I’d heard some samples from John Ottman and David Buckley’s score a couple of weeks before and.... it sounded awesome. The trailer hadn’t managed to make me aware of the time period the film is set in before hearing these samples but the movie takes place somewhere in the mid to late 1970s (you’ll notice things like Jaws 2 playing at the local cinema in the film) and the score certainly highlights this with an amazingly funky, seventies cop show aesthetic which wouldn’t be out of place in an old episode of Starsky And Hutch, to be honest with you.
But how was the actual movie... asides from the excellent score?
Well, it was exactly what I would expect from a Shane Black movie, to be honest. A pretty darn good, fun time at the cinema with some characters who, although you probably won’t be able to identify with them, will certainly have you rooting for them as the plot thickens throughout the movie and they find themselves more in jeopardy at every twist and turn. Black’s camera eye is absolutely perfect with some great shots and a lot of his, almost trademark, zooms across the city landscape but the chemistry between the two principals is pretty great and, coupled with Black’s absolutely beautiful script, the two work absolutely brilliantly together.
Crowe and Gosling play tough guy Jackson Healy and, not so tough, private detective Holland March, who find themselves caught up in a web of big corporation treachery, starting off with the death of ‘adult’ movie star Misty Mountains... a death scene which looks like it was ripped straight off the cover of my old 1970s Panther edition of J. G. Ballard’s novel Crash. As the two try to find another of the women who starred with Misty in a certain ‘experimental movie’ which actually plays an important part of the plot, the two steal the show in a series of set pieces and comedy routines which will have you laughing out loud. In fact, it was only when Gosling goes into as much of an ‘homage’ to an old Abbott and Costello routine as the director thinks he can get away with, that I realised that Crowe is playing the ‘straight man’ and Gosling is playing the ‘funny guy’. Of course, being as it’s Shane Black, he layers the characters with a lot more depth and, dare I say it, pathos... and this stops the two characters becoming too much like cyphers for old time Hollywood comics. He does manage to indulge himself in the writing without doing any damage to the credibility of the characters, though, so that really helps and, as you can imagine, the movie zips along at high speed.
Another element which helps keep the movie afloat is the awesome actress Angourie Rice, who plays Holland’s daughter Holly. She is the light of reason and sanity in her dad’s world and Rice really does an amazing job with this character throughout the running time. Of course, Black is no stranger to having credible and gutsy teenagers in his scripts. It was a strong element in almost all of those movies I mentioned earlier and something of a cliché for him as a writer. Of course, the film is full of clichés but it reminded me a lot of Stephen Sommers’ version of The Mummy in some respects. As in that the film is very aware of itself. It knows it’s milking every cliché and, doing it quite stylishly, but it’s also not afraid to let the audience know it’s in on the joke. It knows the audience is going to see things way before they happen... the villain of the piece is very obvious when that character first appears on screen... but it’s kind of the point, I think. Black is very clear about foreshadowing a lot of the things which will happen later on in the movie and he wants the audience to be free to be thinking about other things rather than the story elements, I suspect. Either way, it makes for a very entertaining ride so I really don’t care too much that a lot of the movie is quite obvious... it just seems to work well.
Now, I can see why the box office isn’t as great as might be expected on this one. The two anti heroes aren’t exactly role models and, although the film doesn’t feel exactly anticlimactic (even with a slightly awkward couple of epilogues to the main action to round the movie off), I think it maybe could have done with souping up in the action department a little more in a couple of scenes. Maybe a car chase moment would have been nice.
That very minor grumble aside, though, I would absolutely recommend The Nice Guys to anyone who is a fan of modern, action cinema. And it’s also nice to see people like Kim Basinger and Gil Gerard on our screens again... although I was too caught up in the one liners to actually spot Buck Rogers in the movie but... I will go back to take another look for him when this one comes out on Blu Ray. A terrific picture, some solid and very fun performances, nice and definitely not confusing editing and a terrific score. Not much to not like in this one and definitely the best time at the cinema this week, I reckon. Catch it there while you can.