Editors note: Pete Hammond’s video review of The Nice Guys is not available.
When I think of the Cannes Film Festival, The Nice Guys — a very commerical, somewhat amusing and brutally violent movie — is decidedly not your typical art house fodder that populates the Official Selection being showcased at the Grand Theatre at the Palais. Yet here it is, making its world premiere last night out of competition in front of a black-tie crowd. Score one for Warner Bros, which obviously will be basking in the worldwide publicity opportunity it got having stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe walk those famous red-carpeted steps.
Shane Black, the crafty screenwriter who hit it big with other movies in this particular genre such as the Lethal Weapon series, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Last Boy Scout, certainly knows his way around this kind of stuff, and here, like with Kiss Kiss, he also directs. As you can tell from the film’s trailer (watch it above), the premise allows for lots of brutally pounding violence in between the snappy comic lines tossed off mostly by Gosling’s character. Crowe is effectively the straight man to his antics, but the pair has a nice comic chemistry that unfortunately at times is drowned out by the non-stop carnage cranked up to the loudest of levels.
That’s too bad because otherwise I had a good time with these two hapless dicks, and the screenplay by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is not bad. Nice Guys also serves as a nifty nostalgia trip back to the Los Angeles of the 1970s. But Chinatown this ain’t, Jake.
The plot is serviceable, with the mystery surrounding the death of porn star Misty Mountains (but of course) and the missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) everyone is looking for. This gig brings about the shotgun marriage of these two investigators, Holland March (Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Crowe) who have their own desperate reasons for taking on the case. At one point it leads them to Amelia’s mother (Kim Basinger), who happens to be the boss at the state’s Department Of Justice — but does she have more to do with all this than she is letting on? Is it ironic, or more obviously on purpose, that Basinger won an Oscar opposite Crowe in the far more serious L.A. noir L.A. Confidential? Here they are briefly reteamed, but it is not the beginning of a beautiful friendship, kid. Anyway, jumping into this mix, thankfully, is Holland’s delightful 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), a budding detective herself it seems and somehow, despite Dad’s orders, throws herself into the case proving to be smarter than the two “nice guys” put together.
The setting of the basic plot takes everyone into sleazeville, but also Black has created a chance for a great visual tour of Los Angeles of the ’70s, and the production design is aces throughout. There are some very funny scenes along the way — my favorite is when the pair interrupt a group of smog mask-wearing campus protesters. The dialogue there crackles as it does in other places when Black allows the action to slow down from frenetic to tolerable. Matt Bomer turns up among the supporting cast but doesn’t make a particularly convincing villain. Producer of the Silver Pictures production is indeed Joel Silver, who practically invented this genre.
Warner Bros opens this Friday. It is all instantly forgettable, but kind of fun anyway, thanks to Gosling and Crowe.
Do you plan to see The Nice Guys? Let us know what you think.