ON DVD & BLU-RAY
The Nice Guys (2016) Blu Ray (Icon)
In Los Angeles in 1977 Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a guy you hire to hand a “message” to people - by beating them up. Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a private detective who is tailing the leader of an activist movement named Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) while investigating the murder of a porn actress who went by the nom de plume of Misty Mountains.
Amelia pays Jackson to give a message to Holland so that he will stop tailing her, which he does so by breaking his arm. However, that night a pair of hoods (played by Beau Knapp and Keith David) pay Jackson a visit asking the whereabouts of the girl. A couple of dead pet fish (!) and a shootout later and Jackson has fended the duo off. He twigs that the girl is in danger so he decides to visit Holland again to persuade them to team up and find her together - before the bad guys do.
Holland reluctantly agrees and, together with his plucky 13 year old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) they investigate the LA porn scene. The plot thickens as a number of other people in connection with a specific porn flick that both Amelia and Misty appeared in start winding up dead.
Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and now The Nice Guys. By now, you should know what you are going to get with this sort of Shane Black detective buddy flick. Witty exchanges between two chalk-and-cheese men who are initially at odds but quickly gain a strong platonic rapport. A vast plot with twists and turns that pile up as rapidly as the corpses. A glamorous Los Angeles backdrop that, when uncovered, reveals a cesspool of sleaze. Wild rollercoaster-style action sequences. A smart smattering of genre self-awareness. The ingredients are all as present and enjoyable as they were before.
There are even enough nice touches to keep the comfortingly familiar from feeling stale. The 1970’s backdrop is colourful and stylishly funky, with plenty of nostalgic Easter Eggs (I particularly loved the Jaws 2 billboard towering at the side of the freeway). There are a few big, blackly funny laughs here such as the aforementioned “fish” scene and another moment when a dropped corpse spoils a swish dinner party. The two leads are great and Crowe’s deadpan gruffness generates some real fireworks with Gosling’s character’s mouthy petulance. The real star however is Angourie Rice, whose character Holly is a similarly stubborn - but more conscientious - rewrite of Darian from The Last Boyscout. She’s a pain in the ass but clearly has her heart in the right place, and in her own way prevents the characters - and the movie - from teetering too far down the road into cold unpleasantness. Not that it's lacking in violence and bloodshed as it is.
Still, as enjoyable as The Nice Guys is (and it is very enjoyable) it’s not quite a great movie. The main issue is that this duo (occasionally trio) seem to make most of their discoveries via lots of accidental bumbling rather than by using any real smarts. I can buy that these characters aren’t exactly Sherlock Holmes, but when the film is full of mishaps uncovering things of critical importance to the plot it just becomes incredibly contrived and sloppy. If you are going in expecting a good detective flick rather than just a fast and funny cinematic flirtation, you will probably come away feeling short-changed.
However, if you like Shane Black’s previous work (and, let’s face it, there’s a pretty high chance that you do) then this fits the bill well enough.
Watch a trailer:
Runtime: 115 mins
Dir: Shane Black
Script: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Beau Knapp, Keith David, Kim Basinger
It looks very crisp and colourful, with the bright 1970’s colour scheme bleeding through the screen in the manner of warm neon. Great, slick stuff that hardly puts a foot wrong.
Everything from the noisy crashes and shootouts to the soundtrack of period hits comes through as clear as a bell. Again great.
Always Bet on Black
A short but diverting 5 minute doc about Shane Black, his approach and influences.
Worst Detectives Ever
A look at the main characters. Again, diverting but brief.
Interviews with Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Matt Bomer, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling (snippets of which were included in the two docs), a photo gallery and two trailers round out the adequate but unremarkable extras.
A great looking Blu Ray of an enjoyable movie, though a bit light in the extras department.