Gosling and Crowe Bring That Shane Black Magic With “The Nice Guys”

By Scott Kurland
Film: The Nice Guy
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Keith David, Margaret Qualley, and Kim Basinger
Rated R
Director: Shane Black

My entire cinematic experience and views on all things film-related have been shaped by several filmmakers. Yes, there’s the pretentious choices like Fellini, Truffuat, and Herzog. However, there have been unusual influences as well like Joe Dante, Jim Henson, and Richard Donner. The most surprising impact was made by a screenwriter-turned-director named Shane Black. Black wrote the first “Lethal Weapon,” as well as “Last Action Hero”. He began directing in 2005 with “Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang;” a Hollywood Noir tale set in the world of actors and pulp novelists. This week’s film “The Nice Guys” is Black’s latest exploration into the world of P.I.’s and organized crime. Let’s find out how good it really is shall we?

“The Nice Guys” takes place in the late 1970’s and tells the story of enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling). March is a single father raising a very clever  detective-in-training named Holly (Angourie Rice). March is also beginning to show a promising downward spiral into alcoholism.  March meets Healy during the course of his investigation into a missing person's case; an encounter that develops into a promising partnership. What unfolds is a booze and party-filled journey to uncover a scandal involving the L.A. justice system and the pornography industry. 

“The Nice Guys” is Black's magnum opus. He really has a gift for storytelling and character development. Of course, this film has some holes here and there, but it’s just so entertaining and original that one can look past those shortcomings. What I’ve always loved about Black is how all of his films are grounded in the world of Noir. Everyone is a detective. Everyone is in on the caper and has some part in the final act. “The Nice Guys” is one of my favorite films of 2016. Black’s script is clever, witty, and just when you think you’ve figured out who is behind it all, Black turns the tables on you. This is a well made and constructed action comedy. Though what I truly admired about it were the performances from Gosling and Crowe.

For years Gosling has been one of my favorite actors, starring in films like “Half Nelson” and “The Believer." What those characters all have in common is they’re flawed and able to pull off the "ignorance-being-bliss" attitude. Gosling’s March is not only flawed, he’s also incredibly cocky and absent-minded. He’s acts as though he's the smartest person in the room and, at times, you believe him but he always ends up being wrong. Gosling played a similar character in “The Big Short.” The reason why that character worked then as it does now is Gosling. This role, in another actors hands, would fall flat and destroy this brilliant film. Luckily, Gosling gives a performance that deserves a nomination for best supporting actor.
The real surprise in this film is Russell Crowe. We’ve seen Crowe as rough characters before, but we’ve never seen him in a comedy and how great he is at playing the straight man. In a million years I would have never thought of casting Crowe and pairing him with Gosling, but it works. Crowe is a great actor, though in the past I’ve never been too keen on some of his films. Yet, I find myself really liking some of his most recent performances and “The Nice Guys” is another performance that reminds me of why he’s such a talented Oscar winning actor.

“The Nice Guys” is one of the funniest films of 2016. The combination of Black, Gosling, and Crowe is unstoppable. There’s so many films coming out this month and it’s already clear that this one is getting lost in the shuffle. I implore you, dear reader, to see this film and save it from cinematic obscurity. With a great script, impressive cast, and intriguing mystery at its core, “The Nice Guys” is a must see film. So far, this is one of, if not my favorite film of 2016. I’ve always been a sucker for a good comedy and a good Noir. Luckily, “The Nice Guys” is both. See this film in theaters. You won’t be sorry.

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