THE NICE GUYS: Crowe and Gosling get Down and Dirty in this Hilarious ’70s Crime Caper [Blu-Review]

Every year there are a number of films that, despite their greatness, fail to lift off at the box office. Time is usually kinder to them, becoming cherished cult classics befitting their quality. Well, with The Nice Guys now on Blu-ray, you have another chance to get ahead of the crowd and see one of the best films of 2016.

Private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a functioning and scheming alcoholic, takes on a case that causes him to collide with thug for hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Brought together by a missing girl, they combine their efforts and soon find themselves embroiled in a much larger case where a a link between her and the porn industry has wide reaching connections to the local automotive industry and city corruption.

What a synopsis fails to capture is the spirit of the film. The plot drives things forward, as the pair follow the trail of breadcrumbs to investigate, through shootouts, car chases, hitmen and the like; but the snappy writing, torrent of quips, and wonderful chemistry of the leads (and supporting cast) propel the film to greatness. This is a sleazy film noir full of action and violence, held together by irreverent comedy that occasionally verges toward the slapstick.

The pairing of action with a distinct set of bantering characters is something that Shane Black has refined into an art form. Predator, Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and the vastly underappreciated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are but a few examples. Marrying his style with a ’70s pulp noir you’d expect something special, and boy does he deliver.

The film is mired in the economic and social decay of ’70s LA, weaving corrupt politics and the automotive industry taking on a increasing wave of environmentalism. It doesn’t dwell on any message in particular, but nod to them and feeds off them. It’s dark and nihilistic at times, as Black has a tendency to veer towards, but the breeziness of it all gives the film a rhythm and energy that carries you along. This is aided by a superb period-specific soundtrack and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s approach, showing the gritty neo-noir look of ’70s LA as well as the garish palette of the American home. It’s truly an authentic pulpy noir that is imbued with the sensibilities of Shane Black.

The two leads are the epitome of a mismatched pairing. Misunderstandings between them happen so often it’s a surprise they’re not both dead halfway through the film. Crowe is a hulking pretense who batters his way through the film while Gosling displays impeccable comedic timing and a surprising knack for physical comedy. They truly are characters, flawed men doing the right thing in their own irreverent way.

Shane Black seems to have a knack for introducing a child character that would be grating in anyone else’s hands (see Iron Man 3), and he does it again here with Angourie Rice, playing March’s daughter Holly. She’s a smart but not sanctimonious kid who clearly knows better than her alcoholic, yet loving father. Their relationship doesn’t get too soppy or overly developed; you get a clear feel for their predicament and rhythm, giving the film just enough heart to counter the seedier elements. A kid is forced to get wise beyond her years to help protect her father from himself. She goes toe to toe with various threats during the film, and not once does it seem implausible. She’s a resilient force, perhaps the only shining light in a film of violence, vulgarity, and corruption. Amidst the darkness she stands out all the more, and Rice is very much up to the task.


The Nice Guys Blu-ray transfer is of great quality, showcasing a vibrant and varied palette, deep blacks, quality detail and contrast throughout.

Special features are a little lackluster. Two featurettes, each running a little over 5 minutes, gloss over a film that deserves more insight. Always Bet on Black focuses on the career of writer/director Shane Black and is primarily made up of interviews with cast and crew. Worst. Detectives. Ever. Making The Nice Guys looks at the initial ideas for the film, development of the project, and how the two protagonists were fleshed out. The release also includes an additional DVD of the film as well as a digital download code. With such a great recreation of ’70s LA, extras on the production design would have been welcome, and until I get a commentary featuring Black, Crowe, and Gosling fueled by a healthy supply of scotch and yoo-hoo, I will not be satisfied.


The Nice Guys is a film worthy of a better release than this; added features and a commentary are conspicuous by their absence. But all the same, the sheer quality of the film alone makes this a worthy buy. It’s a further refinement of the type of film for which Shane Black is so well known. A brilliantly snappy effort brought to life by the irreverent pairing of Gosling and Crowe. Authentic, pulpy action matched with a black sense of humor, The Nice Guys is a blast from start to finish.

The Nice Guys is available on Blu-ray and DVD from August 23rd from Warner Bros.

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