Thursday, 26 May 2016
Movie Review: The Nice Guys (2016)
In Los Angeles of 1977, Jackson Healy (Crowe) is an unlicensed bruiser who intimidates aggressors away from their intended victim. Working on behalf of the elusive Amelia (Margaret Qualley), Healy tangles with incompetent private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling), who has been asking questions about Amelia. March's client is Mrs. Glenn, the dotty aunt of the recently deceased porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), and he has been wondering why Amelia showed up at Misty's home shortly after her death.
Healy is confronted by hit men known only as Older Guy (Keith David) and Blue Face (Beau Knapp) who are also looking for Amelia, prompting him to team up with March to try and find her. As the two men bumble through the investigation, Healy boorish and March clueless, March's 13 year old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) proves to be the most astute detective. It soon becomes apparent that everyone associated with Misty's last porn film project is in mortal danger. Amelia's mother Judith (Kim Basinger), an influential state bureaucrat, hires March and Healy to find her missing daughter before the wild assassin John Boy (Matt Bomer) gets to her.
The insertion of March's young daughter Holly into the middle of a mystery is a brave move. Black does not hesitate to place Holly in harm's way, whether in the company of porn stars or in the path of assassins and a hail of bullets. Thanks to a pitch-perfect performance from Angourie Rice, Holly also gives her dad and his new associate a key link to their humanity in a world gone mad. Holly wants her father to be a better detective and knows which buttons to push to try and get him there. She also wants to believe that Healy can be a better man than he is, and prods him down that path in the disarming manner that only 13 year olds can muster.
The film noir elements are more prominent in the front half of the film, as the early unexplained murder and quick descent into the sordid world of porn productions, second-rate detectives, third-rate hoodlums and a convoluted missing woman mystery evoke the best aspects of the noir style. Black unfortunately moves away from the more clever shadings and tilts towards overkill as the film progresses, and the final third features plenty of wild shoot-outs and mindless action, machine guns and mayhem replacing subtlety and refinement.
The Nice Guys know how to have a good time. They may need to learn to stand each other, but they will also have plenty of groovy adventures along the way.
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