Only until very recently, I wasn’t at all familiar with Shane Black’s career in the entertainment industry. The only film that I had seen that had Black’s name attached to it with both a director credit and a writing credit was “Iron Man 3,” released almost a decade ago. That film, for all of its mixed reviews and unsatisfied fans, is pretty delightful.
It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it does deliver something that a lot of Marvel Studio’s movies do not incorporate into many of its scripts: a good subverting of expectations. Remember how many fans of Iron Man were left disappointed after watching the movie? Well, the main villain of the movie, a terrorist that goes by “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley), is actually not the real antagonist of the movie. Turns out the Mandarin is just an actor named Trevor Slattery who was paid to act as if he was Iron Man’s greatest foe. No, the actual bad guy of “Iron Man 3” is a character named Aldrich Killian played by Guy Pearce.
To be honest, when I first watched this movie and when the scene revealed to the audience that the Mandarin is just a hoax, I actually chuckled at just how genius that little twist was. It was a twist that was perfect enough to not disrupt the plot of the film or make the whole experience of watching pointless.
But, apparently, I was in a small minority of people who thought that. “Iron Man 3” is notorious for being one of Marvel Studios’ most controversial films. Not only did fans think that the twist didn’t work, but a lot of film critics too were not pleased with it as well. Overall, it was a bold decision for Black to write the twist and an even bolder decision for executives at Marvel Studios for allowing him to keep it in the final draft. Although Black received countless amounts of hate from angry Marvel fans, his filmography, although very short, is extremely impressive.
Black was actually in John McTiernan’s “Predator” (1987) as the character Hawkins. An even greater surprise is that Black had written the screenplays for the first two "Lethal Weapon" films. After his "Lethal Weapon" days, Black had both directed and written three separate movies. Those were “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005), “The Predator” (2018) and “The Nice Guys” (2016). I decided to watch “The Nice Guys” first because I was completely baffled as to why and how I didn’t know this movie even existed in the first place. The fact that this film has two A-list actors and gained extremely underwhelming numbers at the box office is simply astounding. It’s a shame how basically no one went to the theater to see this film. Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” is one of my favorite recent hidden gem discoveries. It is the quintessential buddy-cop movie.
In short summary, “The Nice Guys” tells the story of a private eye detective named Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and a tough guy enforcer named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) as they team and investigate a conspiracy that involves a missing girl named Amelia, a deceased porn actress named Misty Mountains and the automobile industry in 1977 Los Angeles. This movie is a fun ride from start to finish.
I couldn’t imagine any other pair of actors that could pull off what Gosling and Crowe do here. This might be one of Gosling’s best performances. Usually, Gosling plays the more shy and stoic character in a lot of his other films. Here, he is absolutely hysterical. You can tell that he had a blast when doing this film. While Crowe has better performances, I do appreciate him taking a role that, like his co-star, is one he’s not usually famous for doing.
Crowe is commonly known for playing characters that display a huge amount of gravitas. His character Maximus in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000) is a great example. In “The Nice Guys,” it’s almost as if Shane Black told Crowe to play himself just with a Californian accent. That works well enough for this character. Gosling’s Holland March and Crowe’s Jackson Healy are an unlikely pair that are perfect for this type of movie. Adding onto that, in the film, Holland March has a daughter named Holly played by Angourie Rice (most notably known for playing Betty Brant in the “Spider-Man: Home” trilogy) and she is spectacular.
Some of the best scenes in the movie contain her. Holly’s interactions with her incompetent father and the brute force that is Healy are what make this film work. All three performers play off each other very well and the dialogue between them feels smooth and natural. They are the heart and soul of this motion picture. As for other supporting roles, we have a nice little “L.A. Confidential” (1998) reunion with actress Kim Basinger playing the head of the Department of Justice.
While she is not in the movie that much, Basinger does a wonderful job playing a character that could be forgettable in another movie, but, thanks to Black’s brilliant writing, she is able to be on the same level as both Gosling and Crowe. Margaret Qualley plays Amelia — the girl that March and Healy are both trying to find. As of right now, she is most famous for her role as Pussycat in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” (2019). Qualley has more to do as Amelia rather than Pussycat. Of course, that’s due to the different roles and the different writers and directors.
In “The Nice Guys” the amount of range Qualley is able to pull off is incredible. She has multiple scenes where she has to convincingly convey a series of mixed-bag emotions and she does an incredible job. Out of all of the new faces in this film, Margaret Qualley probably has the most promising future. All of the actors and actresses in this movie, both well-known and unknown, are fantastic.
As for the technical aspects of the film, the authenticity of late 1970s L.A. is outstanding. The wardrobe, the vehicles, the hairstyles, the music, the television, the culture, the politics, the city landscapes of 1977 Los Angeles, etc. are all flawless in my opinion. Each and every person in the film has something that is distinct and unique about their appearance.
One of the best-set pieces that also serves as a crucial plot point is when Holland March and Jackson Healy go to a party to search for answers. The amount of detail and work that went into that scene makes me commend the production team. I cannot imagine the amount of time that was used just to make and find enough costumes for each and every member of the party. This is truly great stuff. The movie does a good job of capturing lots of different perspectives of Los Angeles.
Like a quintessential mystery film, March and Healy are constantly going from location to location to get information and it always feels fresh. Staying in one or two locations the entire film can make the audience bored immediately. Shane Black was wise enough to write a script that required many contrasting settings which makes the world of the movie even richer and more interesting. Speaking of the script, the pacing and how the story progresses over the course of the runtime is shockingly fast in my opinion.
Personally, I think a film with that kind of pace is perfect for people who love action movies and movies that have a summer vibe to them. In an odd way, “The Nice Guys” is very similar to “The Big Lebowski” (1998) in that the viewer feels like they’re in the backseat of a car with Holland March and Jackson Healy upfront talking about whatever.
There isn’t much more to talk about “The Nice Guys” without getting into spoilers. If you’re a lover of buddy-cop action movies and of both Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, then definitely check out “The Nice Guys.” You will regret it if you choose not to watch it. It’s that good. “The Nice Guys” is currently available to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Redbox and Vudu. Thank you all for reading and I hope you guys and gals uncover other hidden gems like this one.