The Nice Guys is a mixed bag. Just like the time period it’s set in, 1970s, you enjoy the nostalgic factor but then you also want to get out of that era.
Setting is Los Angeles, California, 1977. We meet Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a down and out of luck private detective. Having just come out of a divorce – “marriage is like a house you buy for someone you hate”- his daughter Holly is at odds with her father, mainly disproving of his way of working. “Are you a bad person?” she asks her father, and he doesn’t know what to say.
A mysterious death of an adult movie star leads a very poor sighted woman to approach Holland March to look for her missing niece. He is skeptical but when he finds out that another woman Amelia, who has some connection to the missing movie star, has gone missing, he’s on the case. Amelia, in the meantime, hires enforced Jack Healy (Russell Crowe) to intimidate March to stay away. However, another set of baddies end up intimidating Jack Healy, which throws both Healy and March together to search for Amelia.
There is a whole long connection of Amelia, her boyfriend, the movie they were working on, the producer and Amelia’s mother Judith (Kim Basinger) who is the head of justice. How the two unlikely duo, along with the daughter, trace out Amelia, while encountering the villains forms the crux of the movie.
Before I dive into what works for the movie, let me get the few downside out of the way:
- The story. Had it not been for the lead actors, the movie would have been unwatchable. Simple as that.
- Russell Crowe. What happened to him? He’s gained so much weight since his Gladiator days, that at times I would cringe to watch him.
- Why take on actors like Kim Basinger and Matt Bomer to give them roles which are forgettable and somewhat one dimensional?
- The running time. The almost 2 hours does start to take a toll towards the end. Just when you think the movie is about to end, there comes another scene.
Having said that, there are some hugely positive aspects to the movie that are:
- The chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is a lot of fun. It reminds you movies like Lethal Weapon (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover- not a surprise since the director Shane Black directed Lethal Weapon). They bicker and banter with each other, and while Gosling has the more fun part, they both do bounce off each other quite well. Their budding bromance is a genuine treat to watch.
- Holly (Angourie Rice), March’s daughter, is a revelation. She’s tough cookie, and although she’s only 14, she’s exposed to all the villains and shoot outs. She acts as the moral compass of the movie, asking her father and eventually Healy: are you a bad guy?
3. There is a lot of fun to watch a movie like this set in the 70s. With the costumes, cars and attention to set details, it was like watching American Hustle meets The Man from U.N.C.L.E with Lethal Weapon thrown in. Watch out for the Pina Colada song at the party scene. What a treat.
4. Ryan Gosling. This guy is pure talent. Whether it’s his comedic timing or serious action, he can do it all. His vulnerability is evident alongside with his strength. His best moments are when he displays incompetence with such charm. I’ve not seen this side of him and I’ve become a huge fan of him now.
5. The whole element of what makes a guy a nice guy is neatly explored. If a man kills a villain, does it make him good or bad? Holly reminds again and again to her father and Healy to not kill– you don’t have to kill, just be a nice guy. This is what earn them the the name The Nice Guys at the end of the movie.
The current rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 91% and critics have shown appreciation and love for the movie.
The Nice Guys made for a good night out at the cinema. With decent comedy that evoked laughter from the audience to the mystery-crime caper element, think American Hustle meets Lethal Weapon and enjoy the movie.
3 out of 5