The Nice Guys - film review | Third Space

The Nice Guys - film review

Thu 26 May 2016
More like the not-so-nice and naughty guys

3.5 out of 5 stars

You're the world's worst detectives.

*Family rating: This film is for mature audiences only. It has mature themes and language that should be taken into consideration before viewing.

Have you ever had those nostalgic moments and pulled out some of your favourite films from the past? After watching them for awhile, you realise that they contain more mature themes than you remembered? This has happened to me multiple times when trying to share films with others from the 80's. Some are more subtle and nuanced than today’s theatrical releases, but these experiences have led to some moments of surprise or even embarrassment.

Set in Los Angeles in 1977, Shane Black's The Nice Guys feels like a "buddy cop" film of yesteryear. One thing can be said of this retro experience is that subtlety is not a characteristic trait of this dark comedy. Private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and local goon Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe) unwittingly cross paths to assist in finding and protecting a young lady named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) and to investigate her involvement in the death of the famous porn star, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). From their initial meeting they are at odds with one another, but determine that they must work together to get to the bottom of a series of deaths that centre on the production of a pornographic film and a government investigation into the American auto industry. With many of their leads dying and the added difficulty of their lives being threatened, March and Healey feel the sense of urgency and a glimmer of justice to expose the true culprits behind this series of murders in the city of the angels.

As a writer and director, Shane Black has proven to have a knack for developing strong pairings of male leads in action-comedies from Lethal Weapon to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With full creative licence on the production of The Nice Guys and the provision of strong talent, the strength of this film rests soundly in the relationship between Crowe and Gosling. They do bring the needed nuances of a male relationship to make it all believable, humorous and entertaining. Their relationship is able to grow through the typical banter of men getting to know one another and they are supported by a decent cast. Kim Basinger (8 Mile) gives a convincing performance as the mother of Amelia, but it is Angourie Rice (These Final Hours) as Holly March who commands attention whenever she is on screen. Her portrayal of Holland March’s daughter is mature beyond her years and she shows a confidence amongst this strong male cast that is impressive and deserves special acknowledgment.

The humour and the relational bonds of the lead characters provide the nostalgic push to give this film some redeeming qualities. Unfortunately the excesses of the script drag down the overall value. With the porn industry being at the heart of this comedic mystery, there was no surprise that there was excessive nudity and language. Also, being an action film there should be an expectation of violence. The question has to be asked, where is the line of excess in all of these areas? Black takes these three categories to new extremes that eventually begins to muddle up the better aspects of the film. This is clearly seen in the character of Holly March. Angourie Rice was fantastic in her portrayal of a wise-beyond-her-years daughter of a woe-be-gone private investigator, but the situations she is put in are distasteful. She is left in the boot of her father’s car, watches porn with a porn star, and suffers excessive neglect by her father. All these situations are played for laughs, but left me with a feeling of disgust.

I walked in to the film with high expectations of a buddy film with an intelligent, humorous premise. The strength of the cast and the writing skills of Shane Black promised much, but my euphoria was short lived. The excesses caused this potentially great film to become a victim of an attempt to push the barriers of filming.

Reel Dialogue cannot recommend this film to anyone under the age of 18, but would encourage most to stay away from these naughty boys.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

What is the value of a good friend? Buddy films have been around throughout cinematic history and they show the felt need for friendships. Solomon writes of friendship, saying

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

This is one encouraging passage amongst many that talks to the value of friendship and how God is the author of this beautiful gift to humanity.


1. What does God have to say about friendship?

2. Does God want to be our friend?

3. Does God care about my life?

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