Screened Out – The Nice Guys

By : Stephen Miller
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Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice, Keith David

Though it’s a bit of a mess, the Disco-decade murder mystery The Nice Guys has one groovy thing going for it; it’s crazy entertaining!

Sure, it’s got problems. They start with film-noir narration never used twice – an odd throwback to the 1940s in this 1970s flick. Small, intriguing scenes are simply tacked on, not integrated at all. The plot is fairly convoluted. Director/co-writer Shane Black doesn’t stick with the groovy ‘77 film style anyway, wandering away, especially in the dialogue and camera work, even into the ‘80s. Some of the violence is a little explicit. Finally, Gosling’s character is way more interesting (and fun) than Crowe’s.

I'll just leave this here, so we can all contemplate whatever's happened to Kim Basinger's face.

I’ll just leave this here, so we can all contemplate whatever’s happened to Kim Basinger’s face.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: this is hilarious, captivating stuff, marked with clever lines, solid L.A. art direction, and actors who seem to be having a blast.

Tough guy Jackson Healy (Crowe) and unscrupulous P.I. Holland March (Gosling) not only have great Mickey-Spillane-sounding names. They’re also looking for the same girl, Amelia (Qualley). Healy has found a couple thugs want to kill her. March knows she is the last person to have seen a porn actress alive. After a rough start figuring out their agendas, they decide to team up. The case, though, is a lot messier than either nice guy could’ve imagined, with implications of a national conspiracy and connections to the porn industry.

Not that Healy and March are the most capable guys for this case. Healy is still hurting from a painful breakup and wracked by anger management issues. The only smart choice he makes is to stay away from the bottle.

Director/co-writer Shane Black has a gift for these films with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys.

Director/co-writer Shane Black has a gift for these films with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys.

The same cannot be said for March, who drinks enough for both of them. He’s also raising a plucky, smart daughter (Rice) alone. Their wife and mother died in a horrible house fire.

Those bits of gravitas do nothing to dampen the amusement. Though torturously overcomplicated, the plot allows for some great physical comedy. Crowe is game if not shining, but Gosling is genius.

In fact, Black uses the same physical setups and goofy one-liners that made his film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so enjoyable. (Really, it’s a hidden gem, the last really good thing Val Kilmer ever did.)

The buried question is whether these men are good or as corrupt and slimy as the rest of L.A.

“Tell me the truth, am I a bad guy?” Gosling asks his daughter.

“Yes,” she replies without hesitating.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

These guys certainly do some unkind things, but they may be doing it for the right reasons. Both have just enough redeeming characteristics for us to root for Healy and March.

So, we probably didn’t need so much detail on killer bees. Also, a few dream sequences are funny, but they’re really not germane to the plot. Finally, I was amazed Black went to all the trouble to get an Earth, Wind, and Fire lookalike band. That’s funkadelic imagery that’ll only take the film so far. Also – at the risk of sounding bitchy – something distracting is up with Kim Basinger’s face. That’s all I’ll say. (We can discuss it later.)

Still, I wanted to see more of Healy and March – perhaps even as a franchise. That’s saying a lot, but it’s specifically saying The Nice Guys are worth a couple hours of your time.

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