director: Shane Black
writers: Shane Black & Anthony Bagarozzi
starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Angourie Rice
genre: Comedy | Crime
released: 20 May 2016 (USA), 26 May 2016 (Australia & Greece), 2 June 2016 (Germany)
Gone are the days when star talent backed by great scripts and energetic directors was the name of the game. This film’s director who is a relic of the old Hollywood system chose a formula that is tried and true and a great go to for Hollywood to cling to. Sadly, though Hollywood and general audiences aren’t as thrilled as Shane Black to give formulas of old another shot, even though they most richly deserve it.
In 1970’s Los Angeles, two private eye’s join forces after unintentionally running into each other with common cases in the apparent death and disappearance of two young women. Both of them with different ways of handling their investigations, will have to butt heads a few times till they realize they make quite the team and actually get too close to the truth and the conspiracy at large.
When a man has a natural talent for writing great jokes and coming up with intelligent situations for characters to embark on, its best you just give him the tools to get his vision on screen. As Shane Black is one of those talented individuals that may have not ever made a masterpiece, but he never had to in order to have our utmost respect. As he’s developed countless of entertaining films with some that used to be hallmark formulas of Hollywood, but sadly not any longer.
This is one of the reasons I enjoyed this film and actually did feel nostalgic even more for these films of old that were more about characters and less about the spectacle. As today we have gotten too caught up with the spectacle of things and have forgotten to create vibrant characters first and then put them in high octane scenes of action and violence. However, it also takes a talented writer to bring something fresh to the table as Shane Black managed to do with his previous film 'Iron Man 3'. Making it about the character first and still adding smart twists to the mix and glorious action that audiences of today crave for.
'The Nice Guys' is the old Hollywood formula of getting two star actors and putting them at slight odds in order for them to team up and solve the mystery/case of the film. If you remember 'Lethal Weapon' or 'The Last Boy Scout', both films Shane Black wrote, follow a similar type of plan. Though, what’s in common in particular with these films is that the characters were all well written and the film's had a great dose of humor with plots that were engaging (at least to me). Same goes here with two different types of private eyes joining forces to solve the complex mystery of the death of a porn actress and the disappearance of another young woman. A weird plot that gets weirder as the film progressed, but that at least created many situations of comedy and action. In addition to the moments of bonding between the three main characters.
Naturally, at a certain point in the film the plot does get a little too far-fetched for its own good and it really doesn’t delve any deeper into it to make a whole lot more sense. As the focus primarily remains with the lead characters and their chemistry, humor and also small arcs. Which are if they will end up being useful to the world or stay hidden in their little corners in semi isolation. Running away from reality and responsibility. Moreover, while they are many little movie tropes such as the helpful kid along the journey (Temple of Doom), duo of goons and peculiar secret assassin. It never ruins the film’s flow or fun. With Shane Black adding many great moments of comedy throughout the film and a couple of decent scenes of drama to grow the characters and have even a good rapport with the supporting cast of villains that you wouldn't normally expect. Although, what would have been even better was a little bit more depth to the two main characters. Whose backstories are briefly touched upon and especially when it came to the father daughter dynamic that's missing that final important punch.
Additionally, the amount of talent in the film is outstanding. Both Crowe and Gosling handle the comedy exceptionally and are already well known when it comes to drama. Their chemistry isn’t also that bad and the mix of the young kid to them works like a charm. The goons also are unexpectedly good and something that older films used to pay more attention to. With each secondary character feeling as if they had a purpose and history separate to the main characters in the film. Otherwise you wouldn't care the second they popped right back on the screen to duke it out with the them. Think of Indiana Jones villains and you will immediately see the connection I'm making and why these little things make films more memorable.
Lastly, I have to add that the far-fetched length the plot gets to is a serious issue when it came to the film's final act. Rather than it getting to a hysterical point of how the porn & auto industry and maybe even the mob got involved in this huge conspiracy. It goes down a pseudo political route of crony capitalism and faux patriotism that falls flat and out of nowhere. It could have been great satire if the private eye duo were morons and oblivious to it, but it didn't go down that route and it also didn’t make sense either if you thought about it a bit more. And it was made worse as both characters were kind of apolitical to begin with to get invested in that kind of twist. As well as the fact that there wasn’t a lead villain in a suit leading the charge. People might point to a specific political character in the film, but she was too little in it to be the real foe and her motives were sad to say, weak.
Formulas do work and it’s not bad to go back to them when there is nothing new to go with. Filmmaker Shane Black is a master at delivering tried and true entertainment and it’s not difficult to recommend anything he has ever been involved with. It’s also easy to see this film as it has the star power to back it up and the humor to make it also a light hearted affair. So don’t pass it up and get back to the standardized entertainment the older generation used to love and we have easily forgotten about.