Review: The Nice Guys

Anyone over 50 will wax sentimental at being transported back to the ‘70s in this loving homage to a good, old-fashioned buddy picture. Younger people will get a great taste of what TV-life was like when their parents were in their wonder years. Not since Starsky and Hutch have I seen so much polyester, hookers and great old cars.

 Ryan Gosling (Holland March) and Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy) are wonderfully cast as damaged, low-level L.A. sleuths thrown together by circumstance. Both private eyes have cartoon-drawing ads in the papers promising miraculous results and both, while complete personality opposites, are good at what they do. March is good at defrauding seniors out of their money and Healy is good at beating people up for pocket change.

The film opens with a brilliantly shot scene of a young boy leafing through his dad’s dirty magazine centrefold when a convertible races right through their house, landing in the backyard below. The boy scrambles down to the smoking car and is amazed to see the naked body of the very centrefold — Misty Mountains — he had been ogling thrown clear of the car. He respectfully takes off his pyjama top and covers her exposed breasts. The scene is sweet, yet uncomfortable and serves to set the tone of the film where we are never allowed to fully relax into a light and fluffy ride, but are asked instead to evaluate our own morals.

March is an alcoholic who is raising his 13-year-old daughter after losing his wife in a house fire. His wedding ring is always prominently displayed – worn on a chain around his neck. He is kind, sensitive and clearly a broken man who will correct his daughter’s grammar in one moment, while tossing her the keys to his car so she can drive when he’s had too much to drink.

He will take a little old lady’s money knowing he will never solve her case, yet he is fumbling and lousy at physical combat. Gosling is brilliant at the physical comedy as he bungles his way through the film. There is a scene in a bathroom where he struggles with one arm in a cast to pull up his pants, point a gun and cover himself with a magazine.

Enter Jackson Healy – a bitter, newly divorced thug who lives in a dingy apartment above a strip club. He’s been paid $20 to stop Holland from taking the case and breaks his wrist when he interrogates him as dispassionately as he would step on a bug. In sharp contrast to Holland, he does not drink, yet he is shocked when Holland gives up his client so easily to him. Clearly, there are private-eye ethics that Jackson adheres to as we see in a later scene when he is being roughed up by two thugs who want him to give up his client.

There is something sad and broken about Jackson Healy as he says “Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate.” Crowe is a far cry physically from his Gladiator days — he’s fat and unhealthy looking, but it works for this character.

A real find in this film is 13-year-old Australian actress Anjourie Rice, someone you will hear about again. She is precocious, smart and feisty as Holland’s daughter Holly. She spends her evenings a few blocks away reading with a flashlight on the ground where her parent’s bedroom was in their former house. She is smarter than her dad and has the beautiful altruism of youth as she tells Jackson that if he continues strangling that man, “I’ll never talk to you again,” and actually makes him stop.

She is the one who breaks through Healy’s jaded bitterness and makes him come back to life again. Holly challenges people to be better and she’s no fool. When her father asks her in all earnestness, “Am I a bad person?” she answers immediately “Yes, you’re the worst,” with the complete certainty of a disgusted teen.

There are a few minor roles worth mentioning, notably Mat Bomer as the menacing hit man John Boy, Beau Knap as Blue Face, Margaret Qualley as the elusive Amelia and Kim Bassinger as Amelia’s mother, Judith Kuttner.

Bravo to writer-director Shane Black for a script that is filled with innuendo, humour and gentle spoof of the detective genre. Don’t try to make too much sense of the story line, which is a complicated jumble involving the porn industry, environmentalism, corruption in the auto industry and collusion with the justice department. The great thing about The Nice Guys is that it never tries to be more than it is…. a fun, fast-paced romp back in time to the free and easy (and slightly sleazy) ’70s.

I give this movie 4 hearts.


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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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