In the last moments of The Nice Guys an antagonist yells to Holland March (Ryan Gosling) “Why’d you have to bring the goddamned girl!” which is exactly what I was thinking as I watched this film!
Writer/Director Shane Black has a penchant for putting know-it-all asshole kids in to his movies, and in that, The Nice Guys doesn’t disappoint. With more than a few showing up to say the darnedest things…for comedy or levity…or something. More often than not, it lands, but with March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) it’s starts to wear thin as you notice that she’s more or less crammed in there to provide unnecessary stakes to the proceedings.
However, that’s not nearly an issue as the movies turgid pacing in between excellent action scenes.
The Nice Guys is a buddy cop movie that Shane Black could do in his sleep, and as such it kind of feels like he was dozing a bit as he pads out action scenes with supremely dry “detective” work and clue sniffing, all in the hopes of it all tying together in the third act.
I’m loathe to admit that I bought in to the hype of what The Nice Guys could’ve been. I mean, look at that trailer; it sells a pretty epic movie. But it’s in the watching where the film gets mired in all the puzzle pieces floating around, coming together just so, but in the end, not really meaning much of anything.
In interviews, Shane Black sold what the world of The Nice Guys was to be: a dirty, seedy late 70’s Los Angeles with all its dirty people and filthy smog. A noir of some sort, with two broken men just trying to do right. Moreover, it’s in the movie, but it gets crammed way down to facilitate Holly being mixed up in the shenanigans and “Oh you kids!” nonsense that started to take me out of the movie immediately.
More often than not Holly felt like more a plot propulsion device rather than a fleshed out character worth caring for. To be cornered by antagonists only for Deus ex machinas coming out of nowhere to reset the plot to focus on two men trying to solve a case. The more I reflect on this film, the more I don’t care for it.
The late 70’s Los Angeles is talked about being a character in the various Shane Black interviews, but you couldn’t tell outside of the obvious overtures the film makes in loudly proclaiming the movies is set in the 70’s. With the cars, garish clothes, television (Hey, The Waltons was huge then!). Nevertheless, outside of that, it doesn’t matter what period this film was set it as it doesn’t take advantage of any of it. It’s feels more like Shane Black thought it would be cool to set a film in the 70’s and that was that.
Outside of some of the best movie action sequences in a long time, the lone bright spots in the film are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gossling as the leads. Both have great chemistry, which is vital for a buddy cop movie. Nevertheless, they’re stuck with two characters living in a movie that doesn’t quite fit them. The whodunit isn’t nearly as engaging as it tries to be, with the big bad kind of being a no brainer and you’re not really sure why all of this is such a big deal in the first place. The only thing I can think of is that it’s narrative justification to escalate to bigger, meaner action sequences. Which is fine in-and-of-it-self, but it starts unmooring itself from the gritty, grounded world that the writer’s have established.
With his work on Iron Man 3, Shane Black proved that he was and still is the master of action movies. The Nice Guys proves that maybe his lesser tendencies need to be corralled a bit more and he still has a long way to go as a director. His camera hangs preciously on almost every scene, as if they have much more importance than first glance. For a noir type film, that certainly could be used effectively, but in this film it only goes to slow the pace down to a constant watch glancing crawl, where you just want the next action scene to pop up, if only to be punished with more turgid meandering clue work afterwards.
Perhaps The Nice Guys will be better as an edited for time cable movie that cuts a lot of the fat off the films run time. I’d say start with the Holland March family house rebuilding C-story, as it really does nothing for the film. At almost 2 hours the film is just too damn long, and is in desperate need of more editing.