Home » 2016 » The Nice Guys •••

The Nice Guys •••

The_Nice_Guys_posterStarring: Russell Crowe,  Ryan Gosling,  Angourie Rice
Director: Shane Black
Screenplay: Shane Black,  Anthony Bagarozzi
Action/Comedy/Crime, Rated: R
Running Time: 116 minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2016

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, we just watched a movie about two guys searching for a movie. You could say they are Reel Heroes.


I think the real heroes are those who sat through the whole film. Let’s recap:


The movie opens in 1977 with porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) dying in a car crash. We then meet Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), who makes his money using his brass knuckles to warn punks to stay away from his clients. We also meet small-time private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and his precocious 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice). Misty Mountains’ aunt (Lois Smith) claims to have seen Misty after her death and hires March to investigate.


It turns out that young Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) has hired Healy to beat up on March because he’s following her around. Healy thinks March is a creep stalking a young girl. But it turns out March has been paid to find Amelia who is a missing person with a reward for her return. Meanwhile a sweet old lady, Mrs. Glenn, says Misty Mountains is her niece and just saw her – two days after her death. The chase is on as Healy and March team up to find the missing girl and uncover the mystery of the murder of Misty Mountains.


Greg, I appreciated The Nice Guys for personal reasons. I lived in Los Angeles in 1977 and I was able to recognize certain landmarks and neighborhoods in the film. I could also identify with the tone, feel, and ambience of this period of southern California history. The Nice Guys is a stylish, semi-comedic movie reminiscent of the film noir genre of the 1940s and 50s. The set-up of the film is serious but the story is always winking at us in acknowledgment of its own absurdity. Healy and March are prototypical buddy heroes, starting out as enemies and then thrown together by circumstances to achieve a common goal. It’s an engaging movie and I was entertained, although I doubt I’d ever bother to give this film a second look.


I appreciate your labeling of the film as “semi-comedic.” This film couldn’t make up its mind whether to be serious or silly. One case in point is a scene where March has fallen off a balcony into a wooded back yard. He comes to a stop against a tree where a dead man is propped up next to him. And he does a silent scream in a way that I can only describe as … Stooge-esque. He reminded me of Curly from the Three Stooges when he sees a ghost.

But the show is not a comedy. People are dying left and right. The backdrop is the introduction of the clean emissions laws of the 1970s. It looks as though the Secretary of the US Department of Justice (Kim Basinger) is involved in a conspiracy to prevent the catalytic converter laws from going into effect. This is serious stuff. It *could* be possible to create a comedy from this. But I didn’t find March or Healy particularly funny. Unlike Misty Mountains, the jokes fell flat.


We just reviewed Money Monster, another film depicting the corrupt corporate world’s skewering of the common man. With all the many dystopian future movies also telling us that no one in authority can be trusted, one has to wonder what kind of seismic changes our society is poised to undergo. In all of these movies, the hero is the person who not only uncovers the plot to screw over innocent people, she (or they) also bring the corruptors to justice. Here it is Kim Basinger’s character who is caught exploiting people, and we’re left wondering if her conspirators in Detroit’s auto industry are also exposed and punished.

Our two buddy heroes traverse the classic hero’s journey, being thrown together by circumstance to find Amelia and unravel the Misty mystery. Healy is transformed the most, from thug to something softer than a thug, and he can thank 13-year-old Holly for demonstrating a kinder, gentler approach to life. Usually mentors are older, grizzled characters, but at times good storytelling features a surprisingly wise youth who coaches our heroes. In this way The Nice Guys follows in the tradition of movies like Pay it Forward and Free Willy.


I think you’ve uncovered something too, Scott. The Young Mentor – someone who hasn’t been corrupted by the experiences and disappointments of adult life, and reminds the hero of their own younger, idealistic days. No doubt March is an irresponsible parent. But even the worst parent wouldn’t allow a child to a coke-driven Hollywood party or a gun fight. Still, in order for Amelia to impose her young-mentor talents, she had to be on the scene.

While The Nice Guys was entertaining, I was often confused as to its comedic versus dramatic balance. While it was not a slapstick comedy, often slapstick elements were introduced which threw me out of the action. Whenever I’m thinking about the filmmaking rather than being in the story, the film loses pace and I get lost. I can only give The Nice Guys 3 out of 5 Reels.

I liked the buddy story here. Our two heroes start out about as far apart as two can get. But the ultimately combine their powers for the better good. While they didn’t save the girl (she was a McGuffin after all), they did uncover the conspiracy and the city of Los Angeles was saved. I give them 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The main mentor here is Amelia, March’s daughter. She is a constant reminder to both of the “lost” or “fallen” heroes that a they are capable of being better men. She not only holds them to a higher standard than they hold themselves, but she reminds them of what is right and wrong. But there was too little of her mentoring to give her a high score. However, I see her as playing a pivotal role in the transformation in March and Healy. I give her 3 out of 5 Mentors.

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The Nice Guys is a quirky, clever, and stylish neo-noir film that draws from the energetic chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. This movie is two hours of fun and interesting fluff that won’t win any awards but is still worth a watch. Like you, Greg, I award this film 3 Reels out of 5.

Our two buddy heroes go on the standard hero’s journey and find themselves forever changed, thanks to the precocious wisdom of a 13-year-old girl who imparts wisdom about kindness and restraint in their dealings with people. So again, I hate to do this, but I have to agree with you, Greg, that this film merits 3 Heroes out of 5 and 3 Mentors out of 5, too.

Movie: reel-3 Mentor: mentor3 Hero: h-logo-3

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