‘The Nice Guys’ takes the buddy-cop genre to another level By Kaely Monahan
It’s becoming exceedingly rare to find films that aren’t franchised yet are still good. In an age of superheroes, space adventures and reboots, it’s refreshing to come across a film that is doing something different, yet familiar. “The Nice Guys” proves that there is still room—and a need for—other types of films beyond spandexed heroes and over CGI’d effects.
Billed as a hilarious buddy-cop film, “The Nice Guys” stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a pair of mismatched private eyes who have to solve a disappearance of a young woman. As rote as the premise is, Shane Black's script and direction take the story down strange, funny and at times, very dark roads.
Gosling’s Holland March is a drunk, single father with no sense of smell. (A strange yet revealing character flaw.) He is more than ready to give up his clients if it means avoiding confrontation. His daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) is a with-it pre-teen who is a better sleuth than her father. Their bond is bitter-sweet and a surprising addition. Black gives just the right amount of attention to the relationship so it makes sense for it to be there.
It's a strained relationship. March's drinking does play a significant role but the reason for his alcoholism is actually addressed and handled with real sensitivity. But it doesn't bog down the story or drag March's or Holly's characters. They are cute and sweet as much as heart-wrenching.
Jackson Healy (played by an overweight Crowe), is an amateur hitman with a surprisingly strong moral center. Not that he adheres to it consistently. He’s more than happy to beat the crap out of someone if he’s paid to do it. He takes his jobs seriously, whereas March is dismissive and calculating, despite the alcohol fog he inhabits. Healy is a perfect role for Crowe, who would probably have a hard time playing an outright comedic role. Healy is instead a straight man—and the perfect opposite to Gosling's March.
The detectives start off on the opposite sides of the missing girl case—Healy is out to protect her from “stalkers” while March is trying to track her down on the behalf of a distraught aunt. The case grows more intricate and complicated forcing the two team up, however reluctantly. March’s daughter finds a way to get involved as well, and it’s really her who finds the missing girl.
For every moment that feels predictable, director Shane Black turns the situation on its head. The dialogue is smart, fluid but grounded. Gosling and Crowe make a fantastic comedic duo. From the first meeting where Healy breaks March’s arm to the final scene in a backwater L.A. cantina, they make you laugh and grimace.
Black hits all the right beats with “The Nice Guys.” However, what makes this film stand out from the norm is the amount of violence. People die in this film. Parts get really dark and emotional. It’s a rousing twist on the buddy-cop genre.
This shouldn’t be surprising from a director like Black. He is, after all, considered one of the “pioneer” action film screenwriters—at least according to his IMDB page. Although anyone who wants to disagree should look at his long list of hits including “Lethal Weapon” and “Iron Man 3.” This latest film fits nicely into his oeuvre.
If anything is lacking, it’s that this film wasn’t as funny as the trailers make it out to be. Don’t go in with high expectations of continuous belly laughs. There’s a few really good ones but there are just as many cringe-worthy scenes as well. This is a comedy with real substance and grit.
- Kaely Monahan is a entertainment reporter and creator of the film review podcast Popcorn Fan Film Reviews.