Wednesday, June 01, 2016

THE NICE GUYS: My review

Shane Black writes terrific scripts. For a while he was the toast of Hollywood, selling spec action screenplays for millions. The new William Goldman. Black was the most admired and hated writer in town. He has a wonderful knack for really drawing you in, creating exciting surprising action sequences and describing them with such flair that you’re almost breathless reading them. The only problem is his movies are always better on the page than the screen. The plots are less confusing when you can go back and reread stuff. The witty banter (for which he also excels) crackles when not shackled with a movie star who has the light comic touch of King Kong.

In some ways Shane Black was the prototype of Quentin Tarantino – creating screwball action flicks that are drenched in “cool.” But he’s less self-conscious than Tarantino and none of his movies have intermissions. (What was Quentin thinking with HATEFUL EIGHTS?)

Even though Black’s movies aren’t perfect, they’re always wildly entertaining and brimming with great ideas. THE NICE GUYS is no exception.

As long as you don’t try to really follow the plot or spend too much time trying to determine if any part of Kim Bassinger’s new face is from the original design, you should have fun with this film.

(Side note:  A quick nod to his co-writer, Anthony Bagarozzi. Black gets all the credit, but for all I know the really good stuff in this screenplay was Bagarozzi’s.)

As a director, Black is stylish, understands pace, and knows his way around an action sequence. Sometimes however, directors can take on too much, over-extend their ambitions and reach. Such was the case here, trying to make Russell Crowe funny. Hard to believe but Crowe is a better singer than comic actor.

(Side note 2: Black likes to cast former heartthrobs who are now giant an sloths. Crowe in THE NICE GUYS and Val Kilmer in KISS KISS BANG BANG. The craft services budget must’ve been as high as the special effects.)

Ryan Gosling continues to prove he can play anything. Great comic chops, terrific actor, and a likeable quality even when he plays a shit heel (which is often). Black is a longtime fan of buddy pictures (he wrote LETHAL WEAPON starring Danny Glover and the guy who hates uh, “New Yorkers”) and managed to establish a nice chemistry between Gosling (who’s great at physical comedy) and Crowe (who can stare).

But the real scene-stealer with Angourie Rice, who played Gosling’s thirteen-year-old daughter Holly. Hollywood has found its next Jodie Foster, or at least Elizabeth Olsen.

There are some nice Los Angeles 1977 period touches – gas lines, smog alerts, and people watching this thing we had back then called television.

THE NICE GUYS is good light summer fare with violence and leisure suits. Shane Black is the closest thing we have to William Goldman these days. Gosling and Crowe are sort of like Redford and Newman if Redford were fat.


Jim S said...

Saw the movie on Saturday. It's exactly the kind of film I should like. I hear what you're saying, but I just found it meh. I definitely laughed at a few parts, but I found Ryan Goslings drinking unfunny. And the notion that anyone in California cared at all about "Detroit" in 1977 laughable.

But the young lady who play Holly is Australian. Not only is she a funny, talented actress, she's a funny talented actress using an accent not her own. Man, that's just impressive.

But overall, I didn't dislike the film, but have no expectation that I'll ever see it again.

Matt said...

I saw it and liked it. The only thing that bothered me was that twice it is the middle of the afternoon and they decide to go someplace. When they get there it is night.

Craig Gustafson said...
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Walt said...

Apparently Shane Black shared my childhood obsession with Doc Savage, and is now writing and directing a movie version!

VincentS said...

SLIGHT CORRECTION: Ageism notwithstanding, the closest thing we have to William Goldman is still William Goldman. I'm sure if given the chance he could still come up with another gem like BUTCH CASSIDY or PRINCESS BRIDE.

Dixon Steele said...


There's nothing or no one, at least externally, stopping William Goldman from writing another great script.

By the way, BUTCH was written on spec (a huge sale at the time) and BRIDE, of course, is based on his novel.

In other words, neither was a studio commission...

Jim Henshaw said...

Saw the film and laughed a lot. You're right about the convoluted plot, but I found Russel Crowe's performance both funny and working on a lot more levels than anybody else.

Dana King said...

Saw it last week and really enjoyed myself. I thought Crowe and Gosling had excellent chemistry, with Crowe being more the straight man, which he pulled off well. Now, his Saturday Night Live Gig, that's a different story.

Holly steals every scene. She's a gem.

Rich Shealer said...

Your comment on Russel Crowe "Hard to believe but Crowe is a better singer than comic actor." brought this to mind and is the reason I'll wait until the movie is on cable.

Russell Crowe was on SNL the week after Peter Dinklage. Dinklage in my opinion was very funny. His Naked & Afraid: Celebrity Edition with Leslie Jones was a real highlight of the show.

Crowe was rather boring and seemed to be reading his cue cards for the first time as do most guest hosts.

VincentS said...

Dixon Steele -

True. Then perhaps he's already written such a gem but unfortunately we may never see it because of the aforementioned ageism. More's the pity.

B Smith said...

Every time I looked at Russell Crowe, I thought "You know, if they ever decided to do another live action Flintstones movie..."

MikeK.Pa. said...

I saw it Saturday with my wife. She's a big Ryan Gosling fan (since THE NOTEBOOK)and after seeing the trailer, I thought it would be a fun movie. I was wrong. The plot made no sense and I missed Kim Basinger's initial entrance and exit when I left for five minutes to get popcorn. I liked the homage to THE ROCKFORD FILES with the gun in the cookie jar and the Yellow Pages ad. But, as we were leaving, my wife asked what I thought. I told her there were some funny parts, but I wouldn't recommend it. My daughter saw the ALICE sequel, so based on her review, it sounds like I saw the better movie. The daughter reminded me of a young Anna Chlumsky, who is now 35 and great on VEEP, as is the entire cast.

Anonymous said...

I had some issues with the dialog they had for Angourie Rice. Did the little girl really need to talk about anal sex or some of the other over the top things her character was asked to do? It would have been the same move, but less creepy.

Mike said...

@MikeK.Pa: I left for five minutes to get popcorn.
That says it all.
I nipped out to the dentist next door for twenty minutes for some root canal work. I've not done that since Marathon Man. Last week, I slipped out of Hostel to the travel agents next door to book a holiday to Slovakia and completely missed the second half of the film. A friend slipped out of 40-year Old Virgin to visit the singles bar next door. It's like product placement, really.

YEKIMI said...

During Les Misérables I nipped out to go to the bathroom and came back to what sounded like a cat being castrated. Ran out and told the manager something was horribly wrong with the sound and he said "Nope, it's just Russell Crowe attempting to sing."

Graham Powell said...

THE NICE GUYS is good light summer fare with violence and leisure suits.

And boobs. You forgot the boobs.

Also, re: Russell Crowe's size, I understand he put on 60 pounds just for this role.