The Nice Guys (2016)
Written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi
Directed by Shane Black
“You’re the world’s worst detectives.” ~ Holly
Shane Black wrote and directed one of my all-time favorite movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so when I heard about Nice Guys coming out, and saw the trailer, I was more than a little excited. For the most part I really enjoyed the film, though there were a few things that put me off about it, such as the opening shots having to be a dead, topless woman, and some of the connotations of the porn industry and sexual promiscuity – the latter though, I can somewhat deal with because this film is set in the 70’s, but the first one, the dead girl opener, I just wish we could see less of this on TV and film.
I know this is a detective story, and that Black’s style often harkens back to detective novels of the past, and that noir-esque anti-hero type of detective, often saving the girl with a past, or with issues/bad associations – but I think it could have been done without the gratuitous topless female corpse.
That said, Black does have a way of giving his female characters layers, and more than just surface stereotyping or generalizations in his films – though this one had some places of missed opportunity, in that regard.
Going beyond this, though, I did enjoy the writing, the acting – great performances by Ryan Gosling (not sure I realized how funny and slapstick he could be), Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice (who stole the whole movie), Matt Bomer (always love him) and Kim Basinger (so underused, please make more films).
I love how 70’s Los Angeles is a character in the film. Anyone who knows me knows I have a love/affection/addiction for films and songs and books about Los Angeles, especially when they capture both the good and the bad – and this movie does that. Black has called this take on LA as a “horrible combination of smog and porn”, which does come across – as well as capturing what it felt to live here beyond porn and air pollution – nods to the gas price hike and odd/even days, advertisements and local news, and just the way the city felt – the kind of worries and stresses. I was a only 8 years old in 1977, but it still felt familiar to me.
Holly (Angourie Rice) the adolescent/pre-adolescent daughter of single father Holland (Gosling) was my favorite part of the film. She was not just the story’s conscience, but she was the voice of reason and also of intelligence and wit. The chemistry she shared with both Gosling and Crowe was palpable and believable, and I could see how she brought them together, and change both of them in significant ways without actually changing who they were. I couldn’t help but root for all three of them, and both laugh, and cringe, at their antics.
I was not as invested in the case at hand though, not in the same way that I cared about the case in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, though that may be a personal thing – I’m not sure. I know that the film as a whole never quite connected with me the way Kiss Kiss Bang Bang did, but I did really enjoy it – enough so that I’ve told people about it, encouraged people to go see it, and will probably own it when released on DVD/Bluray.
This is a return to what I loved about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – so I’m hopeful that more will come in this vein. As with Kiss Kiss, I left the theater thinking this would make one hell of a cable TV series – as I’d enjoy seeing what happened with Holland, Jackson (Crowe) and Holly. I wanted to see them open a makeshift PI/detective agency, and have Holly help them with it – maybe as a more worldly, street smart Nancy Drew type.
Hell, I’d like a series just based on Holly, in the vein of Veronica Mars and Buffy – sans the vamps, and set in the 70’s. I’d watch the hell out of that.
Oh, and before I forget, the soundtrack is a great dip into 70’s music kitsch, funk, disco and rock – it is well worth a spin, or two. You can check it out here, on Spotify.
Rock and Roll All Night :: KISS
Something from the soundtrack…