Cannes Film Festival: The Nice Guys

Out of Competition
The Nice Guys

Directed by Shane Black
Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley and Kim Basinger

by Joanna Orland

In 1970’s Los Angeles, inauspicious private detective Holland March (Gosling) teams up with muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy (Crowe) to solve the case of a missing girl named Amelia.  Amelia is no ordinary girl as she seems to be firmly embedded in the Hollywood porn industry while those around her end up meeting their fate.  March and Healy are the Riggs and Murtaugh of this generation as Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black directs what feels like a companion piece to the beloved series.

The Nice Guys could have actually been made in the 70’s or 80’s, that is how pastiche yet authentic this film is.  The plot is veiled in conspiracy as well as simplicity, giving the film that perfect balance of narrative, mystery, action, drama and comedy that any good buddy cop movie should have.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen one quite as good since the early days of Lethal Weapon, making this one of the best in nearly 30 years of this genre of cinema.

What makes this film the best of its ilk is a formula clearly hard to replicate as it hasn’t been done successfully that many times before, outside of a few powerhouse franchises such as the aforementioned Lethal Weapon.  The first element is the script – so many of today’s action blockbusters have a foundation based on a muddled script which is to be salvaged through high-octane action sequences and the star power of its leads.  The second element is clearly the leads – Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make an unlikely yet wonderful pair at the forefront of this movie.  Gosling plays a hapless alcoholic father while Crowe plays both the brains and the muscle of the outfit.  Crowe’s performance is played respectably as the straight man while Gosling is the funny one, never straying into the absurd yet giving a surprisingly subtle comedic performance that always hits the mark.

Like any good buddy cop film of the late 70’s / 80’s, there must be a good villain.  A few henchman are peppered throughout, but Matt Bomer as John Boy has the art of 80’s villainy down to a tee.  The ringleader behind it all is wonderfully played by Kim Basinger in a small yet perfect part.  It is a true joy to see Basinger and Crowe reunited on screen since their turn in L.A. Confidential.

The Nice Guys is a nice film for some, but a great film for audiences who long for the days of quality comedy action movies.  Let us welcome March and Healy into the buddy cop boys club.




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