Film review by Claire Durrant of the buddy cop movie between two private investigators who are hired to find a missing girl. Starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.
Director: Shane Black. 116 mins. Misty Mountains/Silver Pictures/Waypoint et al. (18)
Cast & Credits
Producer: Joel Silver.
Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi.
Music: David Buckley, John Ottman.
Camera: Philippe Rousselot.
Sets: Richard Bridgland.
Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Beau Knapp, Keith David, Kim Basinger.
Private Investigator Holland March (Gosling) is hired to investigate a girl named Amelia (Qualley) in regards to her possible connections to the death of famous porn star Misty Mountains. Amelia hires the tough enforcer Jackson Healey (Crowe) to stop March’s search with his fists. But when Amelia vanishes, the two are forced to team up to solve her disappearance. As they delve deeper in to the case, they’ll face violent goons, the height of the porn industry and bureaucratic conspiracies.
Back in 1987 Shane Black’s first feature length script made its cinematic release. Lethal Weapon became one of the original films that re-popularised the “buddy cop” genre. This began Black’s fondness for detective fiction and neo noir, as seen with other screenplays such as The Last Boy Scout (1991) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). Then in 2005 Black presented the world with a gift, that would be his script and directorial debut for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. KKBB is a seriously underrated film, which is unfortunate as it shows Black at his best. The pastiche and homage to film noir, juxtaposed with Black’s cynicism and wit makes KKBB one of the greatest post-modern neo-noirs, as well as one of my all time favourite films.
So when The Nice Guys was announced as a “spirited sequel” to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as Black’s return to the buddy cop genre, you’ll understand my excitement. Every time the trailer was shown at the cinema, I’d nudge my boyfriend in anticipation to tell him that we needed to see it. I was warned that I was hyping it up too much but fortunately, when the time came to finally see The Nice Guys, it turned out to be everything I wanted it to be. With brilliant performances, impressive action, a cleverly witty script and noir undertones, The Nice Guys is one of the greatest films of 2016.
The setting is LA in the late 70s; the atmosphere is saturated in smog and sleaze, and life is full of conspiracies and the porn industry. The film makers have excelled in creating a sense of nostalgia to this gritty period, with nods to, for instance, Jaws 2 (1978) and TV seriesThe Waltons being made. The entire film also utilises the boogie-esque soundtracks of the 70s. In the midst of all this are our two lead detectives – Holland and Jackson who often, by accident, get caught up in the brash backdrop.
Jackson is our hardboiled, unofficial P.I. who, simply put, “beats up people for money.” Crowe is savage in his actions, but is also calm in his approach. In the buddy cop formula he acts as the voice of reason.
Someone who needs a voice of reason is Holland; an impish P.I. his main source of income is charging forgetful old people who are looking for their already dead spouses. He is often drunk, clumsy, allows his young, precocious daughter (Rice) to drive, and if often dubbed as ‘the world’s worst detective’. Sure, they both sound despicable and damaged but, despite their flaws, they really are nice guys.
The two leads have phenomenal chemistry, often playing off one another in killer retorts and deadpan one liners.
They are both beautifully restrained in their acting at times, which sets up some of the best comedic parts of the film. There’s a scene in which the two lacklustre P.I.’s go up in a lift, only to reach the top and see two people being murdered. Calmly, they step back into the lift and ride it back down.
Speaking of comedy, Gosling is becoming a great comedic performer. It is said that Gosling does most of his own stunts, which I hope is true because Ryan Gosling rolling down a hill is funny. It just is!
Black is back to his neo noir admirations, with homages such as classic Philip Marlowe fiction and L.A Confidential (1997) seen in this latest feature. In a world of constant sequels, prequels, threequels, remakes, and comic book blockbusters, I urge people to go see The Nice Guys. The film is refreshing, original, genuinely funny and utterly enjoyable to watch.
I cannot wait to pair this film with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.