“Never theorize before you have data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
-Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes )
Shane Black has had an extremely unique career. In 1987, Black was asked to be a script consultant for the movie Predator, but he turned down that job. He did accept a role in the film starring as the nerdy Hawkins. This experience paved the way for him. Black has become a reliable writer and director. He is the scribe of films like Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Iron Man 3. His flexibility and talent have given him the opportunity to make the films he wants to make.
The Nice Guys is set in 1977 Los Angeles. Single father and licensed P.I. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired to investigate the alleged suicide of famous porn star Misty Mountains. As the trail leads him to track down a girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), he encounters the less licensed and less hands-off private eye Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe), both hired by the young hippie. The situation takes a turn for the worse when Amelia vanishes, and it becomes apparent that March wasn’t the only party interested. As both men are forced to team up, they’ll have to take on a world filled with eccentric goons, strippers dressed as mermaids, and even a possible government conspiracy.
The Nice Guys is filled with great performances. Ryan Gosling continues to stretch himself into an actor who can act in almost any role. He is funny and silly, but also sleazy. His character March isn’t always good at his job, but Gosling gives the role so much confidence that we are never sure when he is going to be successful or a failure. Russell Crowe is closer to a type-cast than Gosling, but is equally as amazing. Crowe plays the bruising Healey, who is known as a brute. They make an unlikely team, and that makes the movie all the better. Black’s casting always seems out of the box, and The Nice Guys is no different. The rest of the cast has its ups and downs. Angourie Rice, who plays March’s daughter Holly, is the best of the rest. She is excellent as the wise beyond her years wanna be sleuth. Holly is perhaps the best written character in the film. Kim Basinger is far and away the worst part of The Nice Guys. I was looking forward to her performance, but the botox has zapped all emotion out of her face. I don’t say this to be rude, but she clearly has a hard time conveying emotion through facial expressions.
There are some extremely contrived moments in The Nice Guys and a moment in particular that will leave some scratching their heads. This, however, doesn’t take away from what makes the film work. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling feels familiar, and it should. This film could easily have been called Lethal Weapon 5 or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2. Shane Black thrives in this genre. Witty banter between two characters who are nothing alike is Black’s bread and butter. Black’s dialogue feels fresh and natural.
I left The Nice Guys loving it, but after letting it simmer, I’ve come to only like it. Gosling and Crowe have a palpable chemistry that makes the film zing, but ultimately it isn’t enough to make it a masterpiece. The narrative of the film is filled with contrivances. I definitely think this is a film everyone should see, but for those expecting Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you will be let down. The Nice Guys has far more in common with Lethal Weapon, but that’s just fine too.