Film: “The Nice Guys”; Director: Shane Black; Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley and Yaya DaCosta; Rating: ***1/2
A buddy-film, set in late 1970s, “The Nice Guys” is a smart and funny, caper-comedy. It is a hilarious tale of an unlikely duo who bond over an investigation.
The film is a lurid detective tale which starts off with a car driven by Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), who is a porn-film star known as Misty Mountains. She crashes through a suburban house and is declared dead.
We learn this was no accident when unbeknownst to Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a rough private eye, who is often hired to threaten and intimidate individuals, Amelia approaches him to ward off people who are trailing her.
While on this case, one of the first people Healy threatens is Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a greedy and alcoholic private detective. March was tracking Amelia because he was hired by her ageing aunt, who is convinced that she is still alive.
The mystery doubles after Amelia, also an environmental activist had made an experimental film with her boyfriend Dean, who too under mysterious circumstances dies. And soon, everyone it seems, is after Amelia and the ‘experimental’ film she made that includes her mother, Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger), who is the head of the Department of Justice.
Healy believes that Amelia is in danger. So after breaking March’s arm, he decides to team up with March to solve the mystery of the missing actress. March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) tags along with the duo to balance the scales of the drama.
The tale written by director Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi is indelicate yet attractive and engaging. It is packed with great one-liners, physical comedy and a few really memorable moments which include nudity and violence. There is ample humour in this carnage-filled story. The humour is both in the writing and the performances of the cast.
Every actor has sunk their teeth into the character they portray. The chemistry of Crowe and Gosling is enough to win you over. Gosling, in particular, exhibits his skill for physical comedy. From fumbling a gun, cigarette and a magazine in the toilet cubicle to falling over a balcony trying to impress a girl, he is a goofy, comic delight.
Similarly, a grisly and rather stocky Crowe as Gosling’s volatile and tough partner, is fabulous. He too, is convincing in every scene.
Angourie Rice as Holly is endearing. With a serious and ‘mature for her age’ personality, she draws the right amount of conscience to the narrative. Matt Bomer as the weapon-wielding hitman John Boy, is functional. And, Kim Basinger along with Margaret Qualley are wasted.
On the directorial front, Black strikes a neat balance with the action and noir-ish plot. The production design is replete with; hoardings of films like “Jaws 2” and “Airports 1977” and the soundtrack which include The Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin”, Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On it” and The Temptations’ “Papa was a rolling stone”.
The retro vibe, is almost surreal with hallucinogenic feel at times, notably at the porn party filled with contortionists, colour and craziness. These may seem kitschy at times, but they capture the era precisely.
Overall, “The Nice Guys” though chaotic at stretches, is fun film to watch.