Shane Black writer/director of this week’s release THE NICE GUYS is a veteran and pioneer of action flicks, having written among others the buddy-cop classic Lethal Weapon. THE NICE GUYS was just shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Is this new flick starring Russell Crowe and Gosling the must-see that its standing ovation at Cannes suggests?
Last year, buzz got out and spread far and wide about the fun stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe had filming THE NICE GUYS. This lead to conjecture as to whether off-screen chemistry and friendship would translate to chemistry onscreen, and subsequently, a great movie. Gratefully, it does.
Playing like film noir starring Abbott and Costello, THE NICE GUYS screenwriters expertly weave offbeat, often physical humor and action with some great noir elements. A complex plot, investigators with their moral compasses on the fritz, a beauty both dangerous and in danger, heavy drinking, fast paced dialogue, and valuable stolen property that’s worth murdering for, all surround the two men and precocious 13-year-old girl thrown into the mystery together.
Jackson Healy (Oscar winning Aussie Russell Crowe) is an enforcer, debt collector, and strong arm-for-hire who teams up with 10% detective 90% con artist Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to investigate the death of a female porn star, and find a missing girl, only to embroil themselves in an ever unraveling conspiracy. The brains of the operation is March’s daughter, foul-mouthed good-girl Holly played by Angourie Rice. Imagine a youthful, slightly softer Eve Arden. The diminutive wise-cracking dame is essential to the redemption neither Healy nor March are aware they both yearn for and deserve.
Director Shane Black has decades of experience as a screenwriter in Hollywood, writing scripts for the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Long Kiss Good Night, as well as for movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, films he directed. He has done something here that seems effortless, but is deceptively difficult. He has subverted a large number of expectations in both buddy comedies and neo-noirs. Ryan Gosling talks about Black’s directing:
The way Crowe and Gosling interact and ricochet lines off each other is like watching an ace juggler on a street corner. As actors, they are both committed listeners, and both look for opportunities to build a scene as a team, not as separate entities spewing lines, and those qualities are highly effective in the service of THE NICE GUYS. The result is a pervasive authenticity that invites the viewer to feel a part of their experience, and thereby elicits curiosity, loyalty, and a strong desire for the characters’ success. Here’s Crowe talking about director Shane Black giving him and Gosling room to create:
With an Oscar winner and nominee heading this cast, you’d think a 13 year old co-star would be left floundering behind, but Angourie Rice shines as brightly as either of these international stars.
A great find who showed her talent in 2015’s apocalyptic indie bummer THESE FINAL HOURS, she is not only one to watch, but a nearly guaranteed ingenue A-lister in the making. For fans of Matt Bomer, (and they are legion) the role he plays is unlike any other in his career, and he takes to it alarmingly well.
There’s no better way to sum up the value of THE NICE GUYS than to watch Angourie Rice explain perfectly why THE NICE GUYS is the potential box office bonanza badly needed for Warner Brothers going into the summer movie maelstrom, whilst showing her considerable sass:
I loved THE NICE GUYS, and so will those of you who commit to seeing it. You’ll find it a hoot and a pleasure to be taken along on this cinematic adventure. Their fun in making it translates to our fun in watching it.