Basic Popcorn: Our Review of ‘The Nice Guys’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 20, 2016
Basic Popcorn: Our Review of ‘The Nice Guys’

While it is sadly accurate that most of them do finish last, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be a fair bit of fun in the meantime.

As Shane Black returns to the screen with his anxiously awaited The Nice Guys  we certainly get the acerbic blend of comedy and action that we have come accustom to, however we just can’t shake the feeling that he’s playing it just a little too safe this time around no matter how pleasurable the results maybe.

It’s Los Angeles in the 1970’s, and the action along with the general morality of the city is playing pretty fast and loose as was the style of the time when down on his luck Private Eye Holland Marsh (Ryan Gosling) ends up taking the wrong job that sets hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) into his life, breaking his arm with threats of doing a whole lot worse.  However when both Holland & Jackson both have their lives threatened by a mysterious third party, they are forced to team to solve the case of a missing girl and the death of a porn star which are actually more related then they had ever expected as they uncover a plot which could send shockwaves through the American economy.

I’ll be the first to admit that it is hard to ignore the inherent magnetic charm in The Nice Guys but it has a few too many script and casting problems that try to lean too heavily on some of Writer/Director Shane Black’s previous work.


A successful screenwriter for years, Shane Black is a name that goes hand in hand with action and comedy but this time out; he is just trying too damn hard to recreate the genuine magic and pure LA pulp that was in his debut feature Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  He knows all the beats like the back of his hand, but it all plays in an over stylized fashion and makes us feel like he’s fallen a little too in love with making a period piece that feels and looks like it was from the underbelly of the 1970’s.  It’s stylistically amazing but all the flash takes away from the character development which ended up being a little thin throughout with some plot holes and logic jumps that you kind of just have to shrug your shoulders at and go with.  There’s nothing that is honest to goodness wrong with this film, but when you know that everyone involved is capable of doing something better, you can’t help but be a little disappointed if only because you have seen a Shane Black movie before.  It’s fun, but a little too basic to satisfy the hardcore Shane Black fans who have loved his movies for years, so much of which revolves around casting.

I sat in the theatre almost liking the pairing of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe…almost.  They do have their moments but they operate a little too separately throughout the entire film to get any sort of genuine bond.  Gosling does well as the sad sack goofball single parent, but he leans on it a little too much for laughs and never morphs into any kind of discernible action hero; he’s just a spastic idiot with a gun and his lucky no one has killed him yet.  Crowe is also fine as the sarcastic yet tortured muscle for hire who only wants to feel like he matters, but…it just never gels, because honestly neither guy is all that likeable or redeemable, and that’s where this movie really lets us down as an audience.

TNG_Day#48_02022015-115.dngAs a fan of both men, I’ll never have a problem watching either man work, but as an action-comedy team the dynamic just feels a little awkward and forced.  Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer and Keith David all show up in some supporting roles but it all just skates a little too much on the surface.  No one ever feels at risk, or in danger and we see beats from everything like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout & even Iron Man 3 come across the screen.

At the end of the day, The Nice Guys is a fun but ultimately forgettable comedic action romp.  Granted anyone new to the world of Shane Black will get a huge kick out of it all, but the hardcore fans will know that he’s done it better and as a director he got a little too lost in world building and forgot to give us a story with characters that will stay with us long after the movie is over.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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