Don’t let the title fool you, these guys aren’t nice. But being nice doesn’t always get you the answers.
Self-proclaimed men of invincibility, private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling, “Drive”) and enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe, “Gladiator”) team up under humorous circumstances to answer the million-dollar question: “Where is Amelia?” (Margaret Qualley, “The Nice Guys”), at the discounted price of roughly $10,500. Then, as what tends to happen in film noirs, they quickly learn they’re not the only ones who want to find Amelia, though they’re the only ones who want to keep her alive. It also doesn’t take the pair too long to realize this is no ordinary daughter lashing out at her controlling mother scenario; Amelia is trying to take down the powerful individuals her mother answers to, and they’re not having it. While March and Healy spend a great deal of the film acting like idiots (quite literally stumbling upon many clues), they prove they’re far from stupid. But, credit must be given where it’s due — the two’s invaluable accomplice is Marsh’s daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice, “The Nice Guys”).
Though this may be Holly’s biggest case, it’s clear that it’s not her first. The same applies to Rice; this may be her biggest film to date, but her performance proves that she can already hang with the professionals at only fifteen years old. Her perfect facial expressions that appear as she listens in on her adversaries’ conversations establish her acute sense of hearing (not to mention her ability to manipulate a handgun with finesse and style, which is no easy task in real life or on screen). Rice’s maturity is further demonstrated by her ability to be a vulnerable teenager who can’t help but exhibit real fear. The bonding moments between Holly and Healy are truly heartwarming thanks to Rice’s believable display of compassion for everyone, even those driven by money and evil intentions.
While Rice shines brightest on her own, the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling highlights both actors’ talents more than when they’re on their own. Their witty banter is enough to almost take out the one of the evil henchwomen. The dialogue here, and during other scenes, comes off so naturally it’s debatable as to whether the entire scene was scripted or partially ad-libbed.
The cinematography is sleekly modern with a tasteful hint of the 70s style. Fight sequences are enhanced by the constantly changing camera angle, making it nearly impossible to tell who has the upper hand at any given moment. One of the most noteworthy shots, which helps March prove his invincibility, is when the camera is positioned below a glass window as March falls through it, sending glass raining down on the camera.
Once again, Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) exhibits his incredible skill as a screenwriter. He crafts his script in a way that much of the humor functions at strictly surface level, like a basic dick joke, but some comical lines also go deeper. Specifically, many of March’s facetious remarks reflect common criticisms of society that continue to be relevant today; he addresses how certain individuals will harm those close to them in order to protect their status as well as the degree of suppression that women face when trying to spread their political ideas.
All in all, watching “The Nice Guys” is a satisfying experience. Afterwards, you might notice some ab formation, thanks to all that laughing you’ll do, and you’ll rest well knowing your brain got a good workout, because this film keeps you guessing until the very end.