Buvette Masthead

Review: The Nice Guys

Roslyn Hull

A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles. IMDb

What an opening scene, what a soundtrack, what a groovy buddy movie!

This film combines the original spirit behind films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon with a vicious sense of humour and the funkiest disco beats this side of an Earth, Wind and Fire revival concert. I do not think I can really do it justice in trying to describe the stellar entertainment value of this film but here goes …

Let’s talk about the production team first.

Writer/director Shane Black is known more for writing, with classics like the Lethal Weapons and Iron Man 3 in his CV. However, to see the genesis of this film may I suggest you seek out a little known gem starring Geena Davis and Samuel L Jackson called The Long Kiss Goodnight, written by Black, and the cinematic joy that is Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. The latter film is both written and directed by Black and stars Val Kilmer as a gay detective and Robert Downey Jr. as a deadbeat thief whose severed thumb has its own story arc. Really.

The other writer of The Nice Guys, Anthony Bagarozzi is a Hollywood enigma, only collaborating on Black’s films, with long spells between projects. However the rest of the crew (production designer, art director, set decorator and costume designer) have worked steadily and with little pretension for years. Their solid experience shows in every bow-chica-wow-wow facet of the film. From the first ‘wocka, wocka’ slap bass notes to the flares, platforms and skimpy, skimpy bikinis there can be no doubt that this film is set in 1977 Hollywood.

There are long lines at petrol bowsers (oil shortage), smog alerts (no unleaded petrol yet) and pollution demonstrations that are not only part of the action but give a resonance to the story, so much so that I could almost taste the metallic air. Every wide angle, grainy shot of Los Angeles reminds the audience that this is not a story to bring our post millennium PC values to – this is a gritty, violent, nihilistic and bleeping HILARIOUS story in and of its time. To be enjoyed, to be outraged or confused by and most of all to grab our attention and never, ever let go of it!

At almost two hours long I should have been fidgeting but I was utterly enthralled. It is like Sam Spade in a safari suit. Abbot and Costello working for the Godfather … or Jim Rockford without a G rating.

The story is so meaty and has so many twists and turns that I was almost afraid to laugh for fear of missing the next clue. That the characters are all played as tropes of classic ‘70s ‘types’ just made it even more fun.

The two leads are a match made in heaven.

Big Russ’ shaggy wannabe detective, getting by as an enforcer with a heart of gold, fits him like a glove. Gosling’s hard drinking ex-cop, now exploitive PI, is ripe to be redeemed. Particularly with a sassy daughter in tow. That girl is played by a young Australian actor called Angourie Rice – with all the gravity of Dakota Fanning’s early work, and the excellent comedic timing of a young Christina Ricci. One to watch.

I had no idea Ryan Gosling was capable of such physical, pratfalling humour. The toilet scene is hilarious and he can squeal like a girl with great effect.

I could go on and on but the best thing I can suggest is that you don’t miss this one at the cinema, especially if you are looking for solid popcorn-worthy entertainment.

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Limelight Cinemas Tuggeranong.


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author