Bias: I’ve seen the directors previous films, I was slightly tired going into the theatre, I saw the positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but saw it opening night to avoid fellow audience hype.
There is a side-bit in The Nice Guys that nicely sums up the entire movie. Jackson Healy played by a heavyset Russell Crowe recalls an anecdote about a bizarre car accident involving former president Richard Nixon. He then switches point of view explaining the situation from the other side. Holland March, played by a bemused Ryan Gosling questions the usefulness of the anecdote saying it could have been a lot simpler had he just said there are different sides to the same story instead of explaining the whole story itself.
Much of The Nice Guys feels like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, the previous films from writer/ director Shane Black. What if instead of a private eye and a thief or a superhero and his partner and a kid, you had a mix of all of them telling a similar story from a different point of view. There are good directors who fail to become great directors because they make one great movie again and again to diminishing returns. With this film it seems the former Lethal Weapon writer, despite stretching himself into blockbuster territory on his last film, has no interest in telling anymore than one story. About buddy cops who banter semi-meaninglessly in Los Angeles while resolving a murder mystery. It’s hard and fascinating to imagine what the director will bring to The Predator.
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as a pair of mismatched detectives Holland March and Jackson Healey, who in this case despite worthy material prove in addition to their recent SNL hosting gigs, why they’re not primarily known as comic actors. They mishandle the delivery of a few funny lines and situations and its hard for them to create consistent personas out of the situations they find themselves in. Worse so certain traits remain unclear (discussed in spoiled territory). Casting Crowe as a bruiser and Gosling as a buffoon is an interesting choice, but the movie never figures out how they are supposed to compliment each other and thus the movie fails to pick up on any momentum.
Black shows instincts for this and compensates by fluffing up the tone further, relaxing it and dialing down even the little seriousness his last two films had. The problematic effect is that he does this so much that when the jokes miss- they fall very flat. He conjures up a few beautiful images; one of a lighter revealing a dead body filling the negative space, another of Gosling smoking and drinking into the empty pool of his rental home. He is smart enough to conjure up themes of duty and caring in both parenting and procedure, along with their uses and gratifications. In the way of telling a story he knows how, but when the story comes together rather simply by the end much of the scenes or detective legwork the story told to get there feels like a waste. It might as well have been said before, and a whole lot simpler.
- Why does Holland continue to drink even after the case is solved? Does it make him a better detective or is he still the world’s worst? The answer doesn’t matter.
- The daughter is responsible for most of the work done in the film, though her point of view is neglected she is ultimately heard whereas the villain’s neglect of their daughter leads to their downfall.
- Thematic b.s.: The poisoning of the environment is a running theme throughout the film that ties to the adult influence. The handling of the environment is an issue many kids take on in response to their parents habits and supplies the motivation of the runaway girl. Bodies are laidwaste by the parental figures who are caretakers of the world. This explains why Holland’s daughter doesn’t want anyone to be killed. March doesn’t directly kill anyone and Healy stops.