The Nice Guys (a short study)
2016 ‧ Mystery/Crime film ‧ 1h 56m ‧ dir. Shane Black
"They're not so nice" - Charlotte Haley (FR)
Sleaze reigns in this visceral action comedy, monopolising on Shane Black’s crude, clever screenwriting to create a buddy comedy with staying-power. Not only are Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe able to flex their comedic muscles to riotous effect, the aesthetic of the film is eye-pleasing in its seventies sordidness, echoing the seedy subject matter.
Based on the collaboration of two private detectives investigating the death of a porn star, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) begin their love-hate relationship with slapstick violence that brings several worrying, high-pitched noises from Gosling. Far-removed from his sombre character in Drive (2011), and his confident broker in The Big Short (2015), Gosling plays a luckless detective with a big drinking problem and a tragic back story - clichéd, sure. But Shane Black ensures that Holland March does not stagnate in the muddy depths of unoriginality. Filming through distorted materials - dirty mirrors, window reflections, water tanks with mermaids in - the audience feels as intoxicated as March as we follow his escapades, able to relate to his character perhaps more so than Crowe’s. This is emphasised by the short, sharp cuts during the action scenes, an editing technique manifesting in jarring movement that helps the scene come to life. Skilfully shot, this film at no point lacks liveliness.
Surrealism abounds, too, adding to the disorientation: a talking bee, mermaids (as mentioned), a blue-faced villain with a dangerous message to deliver. In fact, the film itself delivers an interesting message, hidden beneath its joking and psychedelic decoration: can pornography make a political statement? What place does sex have in film, and how explicit must it be to get this message across? Though the film includes nudity and sexualises many of its female characters, this is arguably improved by the heavy involvement of March’s teenaged daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), thankfully a strong actress, despite her young age. The dynamic between March, his daughter, and the tragically purposeless Healy makes for a light-hearted atmosphere, penetrated with moments of poignancy, where the film asks serious questions about the abuse of power, both governmentally and in the porn industry. No, it won’t bring you to the edge of an existential crisis, but The Nice Guys is a very funny action film with excellent performances and an eye-grabbing aesthetic that perfectly captures the decadence of the time. Even if the portrayal of the characters is a little one-sided, neglecting Crowe’s potential for hilarity, Gosling and Crowe have an on-screen chemistry that really is worth the ticket-price.
By Charlotte Haley - 2016 Film Representative @ FAFF