Film Reviews

THE NICE GUYS

By • May 20th, 2016 •

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Shane Black re-writes the buddy movie template and gives Crowe a second chance and a franchise. Lots of nasty, unrepentant violence and hookers. Pure enjoyment.

I remember reading Shane Black’s screenplay for LETHAL WEAPON (1987). It was a completely unorthodox script. Obviously, Black did not use Final Draft or read that Syd Field bible on screenwriting.

LETHAL WEAPON opened without the establishing shot or introduction of the stars. It opened with a girl falling to her death from the top floor of a hotel. What happened to the obligatory First Act where we meet the stars and know what kind of movie we will be seeing?

LETHAL WEAPON 2 opened in the middle of a car chase. THE NICE GUYS has a similar opening – its now the Shane Black signature.

I read the interview with Shane Black that just ran in The Hollywood Reporter which summarized his fall from Hollywood grace. Black quickly assumed a bloated congratulatory ego fueled by drugs, women and a party mansion. Black’s next films (THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991) and THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996) failed at the box office. Black still had LETHAL WEAPON 2, 3 and 4 money but unlike certain actors and one screenwriter – M. Night Shyamalan who used up his and Black’s hall passes before finally becoming a Hollywood pariah – Black was “blacklisted” until Robert Downey Jr. rescued him and. Black wrote IRON MAN 3 in 2013.

Don’t cry for Black – the $1.75 million he received for his screenplay for THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991) was the highest to date in 1990. He sold the script to THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996) for $4 million a few years later. And LETHAL WEAPON keeps on paying off – there is a TV series coming.

THE NICE GUYS, written and directed by Black, stars Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy, a fat thug-for-hire and Ryan Gosling as Holland March, a lazy loser private detective.

Whenever Crowe appears fat in a movie, he always says he put on the weight for the role. How many times can we swallow this tale? Crowe said he gained weight for BODY OF LIES (2008). He spent his time on screen in a bathrobe.

Crowe just cannot control his weight and he likes to eat. He gets fat and his agent must find roles for a fat guy. His agent does not look for roles that require his client to gain weight over and over again.

These two come together to find a missing girl, Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), after Healy breaks March’s arm. Healy likes to break an arm or nose and then ask questions. Healy somehow knows Amelia but now she is on the run.

There is a terrific killer, who also happens to be a handsome sadist named John Boy (Matt Bomer), after Amelia. She has made someone very angry.

2Amelia is linked to the death of a porn star, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). March’s world-wise and world-weary 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) keeps trailing her father and Healy as they travel through 1977 Hollywood. Holly has little faith in her father’s ability to do any detective work. Unfortunately, Black has Holly humiliate her father in front of Healy.

Holly is completely at ease watching porn and hanging out with porn stars. Her future seems written in handling a stable of escorts, suppling stars with coke, or directing lady-porn.

Amelia’s mother, Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger) hires Healy and March to find her daughter. Judith is not just a worried mother. She is a powerful Department of Justice attorney investigating Detroit’s auto industry. She is also a ball-buster.

There are scenes in THE NICE GUYS that turn the standard buddy movie on its head. It is rated “R” for very good reasons and it honors that emblem. Black is fearless in his untraditional screenplay and it is funny, violent, and quotable. This will be the second movie, after STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, that might make real box office through second viewings.

It’s that good. You leave the theater the way you left the screening of THE HANGOVER.

Crowe has a potential lucrative franchise if he behaves himself and just follows direction and cashes the big check. But, Crowe has a bad reputation, so it will be fun to watch him once again exploit and then destroy his A-list stardom. He is so likeable here, even when beating a man bloody. His chemistry with Gosling really defines the movie’s central core.

Gosling embraces this unusual role – for him. His March is indeed inapt but in some ways his character matches Crowe’s Healy in the way he deals with his clients. And he’s a lousy parent – to boot! Gosling really looks like he is enjoying playing this character and, if Crowe goes along without calling the screenplay for THE NICE GUYS “crap”, tries to take over directing, or demand a sex scene, these characters can replace the original odd couple, Riggs and Murtaugh.

Final word: The poster is terrible.

 

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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