“Comedy” is a term which is liberally applied in the film industry. Today, the genre covers everything from quirky independent movies to lazy blockbuster sequels. Indeed, it is very rare to find a comedy film as funny as this one.
The year is 1977, and it’s not a great time for the city of Los Angeles – the Hollywood sign is in ruins, its residents are choking in thick smog, and the *ahem* adult entertainment industry is thriving. Of greater concern is L.A’s teenage population, who are being courted across the city by older men. This is where Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) comes in. A hitman-for-hire, he goes after anybody who has been messin’ round with teenagers.
Healy’s latest job involves roughing up a private investigator, Holland March (Ryan Gosling), who has been trailing a girl called Amelia (Margaret Qualley). As it turns out, March is investigating the death of an, erm, “actress” – a case in which Amelia may be involved. After Amelia herself goes missing, Healy and March team up and, with March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) in tow, set out to discover what is really going on.
The cinema release of The Nice Guys in May could not have come at a better time. In the twelve months prior – and some would say even longer than that – audiences had succumbed to a glut of reboots, sequels and otherwise, with little in the way of unique or fresh ideas. It is such a relief to see a film, ANY film, with an original screenplay, and the script for this flick is better than most.
There are plenty of laughs to be had, both large and small. Like most comedies, the trailers for The Nice Guys do rob the film of its funnier moments. If you can, steer clear of any promotional material before viewing it; but, if you have seen every single advertisement (I’m one of the guilty few), you can be assured that there is much more to enjoy.
The acting of the leads is particularly entertaining. Ryan Gosling has always been admired as a dramatic actor, but his comedic skills have often gone unappreciated. Here, he goes all out, with his delivery and timing being pitch perfect. Russell Crowe does a great job playing… well, let’s face it, he’s just playing himself. And youngster Angourie Rice holds her own against the adults – watch out for her name in the years to come.
Where the film falls short is in the action sequences. They’re adequate enough, but lack the tension and spectacle which has come to be expected of action-comedies. The villains, too, are pretty dull, failing to instil any fear into either the characters or the audience. Nitpicking, I know, but otherwise there isn’t much to fault.
The Nice Guys is the funniest film in many, many months and one of the most original. The talents of Crowe and Gosling are well and truly on show, the two helping to make the movie a thrill from beginning to end.
This review was originally published by YO Bendigo on June 7th, 2016.