#REVIEW: “THE NICE GUYS”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The original Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover was released the year I was born. While this makes me feel ancient (especially with that new Fox series remake on the way this fall), it also strikes me as absolutely criminal that the Film’s writer, Shane Black, has only had middling success ever since. The once hot young talent rocked the 1990s, before blasting off again with his directorial debut Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang in 2005 – resurrecting both his and Robert Downey Jr.’s careers in one big swoop. 11 years and one Iron Man Film later, Black returns to the big screen this weekend with The Nice Guys. And it could not have come at a better time.
Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a private detective looking for Amelia (Margaret Qualley), as she may be involved in the death of a porn star in late 1970’s Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is paid by Amelia to harm March and get him to stop following her. But when bodies begin to pile up, March and Healy decide to team up and solve the mystery.
Simply put, The Nice Guys is awesome. With the help of co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi, Black has created another terrific Buddy-Cop Film that will have you laughing until you cry. The dialogue is great and the ludicrous situations he puts Crowe and Gosling through are just as ridiculously funny as the next. Black’s ear for wit and sarcasm continue to be his strongest asset (as does his penchant for brutal violence), and the 1970’s setting makes for a distinctly inspired variation on his usual formula. The pacing becomes slightly erratic in some instances, but the bigger issue is that much like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (and to a smaller extent, Iron Man 3), Black continues to bury the mystery at the heart of the film under MacGuffins and questionably convoluted explanations. I can appreciate how much he idolizes and reinvents the Film Noir genre here, but I am not sure how many times he wants to continue making the same mistakes in each of his subsequent Films.
Script issues aside, the acting is what truly makes The Nice Guys sizzle. The brilliant dialogue allows just about everyone a moment to shine on-screen, with great supporting turns from Keith David, Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice (as March’s precocious daughter Holly) and an especially scary Matt Bomer. Crowe is out of his comfort zone playing the thug-for-hire, but he has a blast hamming it up from beginning to end. He plays the more-straight laced lead character, but gets his share of laughs and some of the Film’s best dialogue. I feared he would play the character too serious, but I think his hardened background helps make the character even stronger. While Healy could have used a bit more development in the Film, I think this might be one of Crowe’s better performances in recent memory.
But it is Gosling who is the true star of the Film, going nearly unrecognizable under all of his scraggly facial hair. We have seen him do comedy in Crazy. Stupid. Love. and in the Oscar-winning The Big Short, but not like this. He is absolutely hysterical as the perpetually drunk private investigator March, delivering one outlandish moment after the next. He commits right from the start, bringing an infectious enthusiasm and energy to the Film that goes entirely unmatched by anyone else. Yes, this is a dark and genuinely tragic character on the page, but Gosling manages to find a way to keep things light and breezy at all times. He has already given plenty of brilliant performances – but his work here may go down as the best of his career.
I had high hopes for The Nice Guys and it met nearly all of them. The Film is a ridiculous amount of fun to watch, and has a style all of its own. Black continues to flounder with his explanations, but his dialogue has never been better. Everyone in the cast is aces, but having the opportunity to watch Gosling unleash his totally hidden comedic side may be one of the early highlights of this summer movie season. Don’t miss out.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release THE NICE GUYS on Friday, May 20, 2016.