Directed by Shane Black, The Nice Guys follows Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a depressed, alcoholic private detective and father of one. He’s tasked with finding a missing person but, unfortunately for him, it’s someone who really, really does not want to be found. And this someone hires Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), an enforcer, who makes sure his targets get the message — whether it’s “stay away” or “get out of town” — by any means necessary. Jackson pays Holland a visit, and, suffice it to say, he gets the message. This is where you’d assume their relationship would end, but the two unlikely allies eventually team up to uncover a nationwide pornography conspiracy that’s leaving more than a few dead porn stars in its wake.
Our writers Matthew Pariselli and Shelby Morton went to check out this disco-era buddy comedy and decided to chat about some of their thoughts…
SM: I’m getting the feeling you didn’t love this movie.
MP: I think that’s an accurate feeling, yes. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it. To be honest, it surpassed my expectations. I think you enjoyed it more than I did…?
SM: I definitely did. But first I’d like to know, how did it surpass your expectations? Dare I ask — what were your expectations?
MP: Fair question. Not being the biggest fan of comedy or action films, I was a bit hesitant going in (but did approach it with an open mind!). I say it surpassed my expectations because I found myself laughing in select spots and engaged with the story to a degree that surprised me.
I thought the filmmakers did a superb job of capturing the sweat-soaked, gritty, grainy vibe of L.A. in the ’70s. Everything from the fun fashion, hairstyles, cars, home furnishings, wallpaper and color schemes harked back to the retro era in a way that made me feel warm and fuzzy (Boogie Nights came to mind a few times, and that’s never a bad thing). I was also pleasantly impressed by the performances. The lead actors (Ryan and Russell) had comedic chemistry that seeped through all over, and young Angourie Rice, who plays Ryan’s 13-year-old daughter in the film, added a flavor to the mix all her own. I really think this will be a breakthrough moment for her. What did you think of the acting?
SM: Angourie was the breakout star of the movie for me. She was sweet, she was smart — but with an edge, something that people her age don’t often have yet. She also had great comedic timing. She managed to keep up with (if not surpass) some pretty major stars and that’s a testament to her talent. This one’s going to have a big career ahead of her. And that Gosling — who knew he’d be so great at, not just comedy, but physical comedy? He literally threw himself into this role, and I loved it.
But can we please talk about the music? How spot-on was the soundtrack for this movie? The Bee Gees, Kool and the Gang, Al Green…oh my! (Clearly I’m a fan of this genre).
MP: Yes! The music played as big a role as the actors did, and that’s exactly how it should be with a film set in an era where music was so rich and permeated so much of the collective consciousness. There’s a party scene about a third of the way through the film and I couldn’t help myself — I wanted to leap up from my seat and directly into the action, Jack and Coke in hand. The music, the tone, the style — I was living! If there’s someone out there who sees the film and doesn’t want to transport themselves into the fun this portion of the movie conveys, they should probably get their pulse checked.
SM: I know! I actually started dancing in my seat at that scene. It makes me feel nostalgic for a time that I wasn’t even alive during.
MP: To have been alive and have enjoyed the ’60s, ’70s AND ’80s…
But, I can’t close my critical eye. I think we both felt the beginning of the film lacked clarity, that the filmmakers lost sight of the story and got swept away with the star power of Russell and Ryan. Would you say that’s true?
SM: I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do in terms of parodying a specific era and style of movie (’70s crime/buddy cop) but I don’t think it was as accessible as it should’ve been to people who maybe aren’t so familiar with that culture. I found myself asking more than once “What are they doing? Who are they looking for, again?” Little bit convoluted in terms of plot, I’d say. BUT the charisma of nearly every actor, as well as the wildly stellar script all but made up for my initial confusion. I laughed out loud more than once and I’m not really what you would call a “laugher” (Laughs). I caught you laughing, too. At that scene, you know that scene? With the kid? Need I say more?
MP: Ha! Yes, that scene shocked me and I was all for it. This film may be a crowning moment for Angourie, but the kid you’re referencing gave her a big challenge…and he only needed one line to do it. Someone better be giving him more work (keep an eye out for him around a third of the way through the movie).
But back to the point about a garbled storyline, particularly at the beginning — the plot should never be compromised for an extra laugh or two, and I think that’s one of the film’s flaws. It wouldn’t take much to uncross those wires in the writing, I just think it was a detail that got left out to fry in the L.A. sun.
I will say it was nice to see Kim Basinger on screen again and back in her L.A. forte (L.A. Confidential is a favorite of mine, I admit). Matt Bomer‘s role was fun too. A nice shift in gear from his American Horror Story: Hotel part.
SM: For me, Kim’s role felt a little…for lack of a better word…miscast? I’m all for cameos but hers felt like it lacked the appropriate amount of bite — especially considering the menacing character she was supposed to play. Maybe it’s because every other casting choice was just such a pleasant surprise to me that by the time Kim came on screen, I was underwhelmed. But these are such incredibly minor qualms. The Nice Guys was an absolute breath of fresh air in an age bursting with far too many superhero franchises, and sequels upon sequels upon sequels. Ironically, they’ll probably do a sequel for this. I haven’t been this excited for the return of an onscreen duo since I saw Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven.
MP: Fair enough! I’m willing to bet that a sequel is probably already in the works. I think it’s also safe to say The Nice Guys will get showered with all kinds of love at the box office, and that always bodes well when it comes to sequel potential. It’s funny, the action sequences are entertaining and the A-list talent it’s supported by doesn’t hurt either.
SM: So, recommended?
MP: Yes, I’d recommend it to audiences with an interest in the subject matter and those generally thirsty for a laugh. My final grade: B-. What’s your verdict?
SM: A-. Great tunes, great style, great acting, great writing — what more can you ask for?