Review: ‘The Nice Guys’ Deserve An Honorable Mention

Sometimes The Nice Guys don’t finish first.

The Nice Guys, a mystery comedy directed by Shane Black opens up in theaters Friday courtesy of Warner Brothers. This film stars Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Keith David, and Angourie Rice. On the surface, nothing is wrong with this film. Shane Black has creates a typical film noir piece that’s chock full of pulp and based in Los Angeles.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys takes place in 1977 Los Angeles. The air is smoggy, crime is rampant, and porn appears to be an acceptable part of the community. Private Eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) teams up with professional thug Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), to track down a missing girl who may have knowledge about the murder of porn star Misty Mountains. While trying to locate the missing girl, the pair stumbles into something far bigger.

The missing girl has a powerful mother, played by Kim Basinger, who works at the Department of Justice. Basinger and Crowe had worked together once before as they both stalked the streets of LA in LA Confidential. In The Nice Guys, Basinger’s character is investigating collusion in the auto industry. She attempts to give an air of mystery to her character, but her lackluster performance only detracts from the suspense in this film.

What The Nice Guys got right was the commitment it made to the Film Noir genre. Rarely did this movie deviate from the type of film it was trying to be. The lighting adds the appropriate amount of tone throughout the picture and the cinematography enhances the broad scope of this detective story. Even the soundtrack, that mixed ‘Earth, Wind, and Fire’ and Al Green, adds a delicious layer of enjoyment to the story.

Black also places an importance on the relationships in this story. The relationship between March and his 13-year-old daughter (played by Angourie Rice) provide some of the funniest moments of the film. It also takes Gosling’s character which is teetering on a caricature of a 70’s TV character and humanizes him.

Where The Nice Guys fell apart was in the pacing. This movie commits from the go to staying true to the genre (gotta have that snappy dialogue), but that is where the film begins to drag. There is nothing wrong with a commitment to a style of filmmaking but one has to make sure that the movie is balanced. At points, it felt as if the audience was trudging through this film rather than experiencing this mystery as it unfolded.

The film seemed to rely a little too much on shootouts which derails the film. The Nice Guys is an homage to the classic detective story shot like a film noir. Those films relied more on intrigued and suspense and less on violence and automatic weapons. One or two shootouts would have been fine, but it ended being a bit excessive towards the end.

Black seemed to be trying to create a Lethal Weapon dynamic at times between March and Healy. Black couldn’t decide if he wanted to create a 70’s detective story or another buddy cop film.

Even with these negatives, it certainly would be disingenuous to refuse to acknowledge that the positives outweigh the negatives. Anyone who pays to see The Nice Guys will leave satisfied, just don’t go in expecting some brilliant piece of filmmaking.

While The Nice Guys in this film don’t finish first, they certainly deserve an honorable mention.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.