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Film review: The Nice Guys

Thursday 26th May 2016

Ryan Gosling saves The Nice Guys from being overshadowed by some particularly cringeworthy moments.

Photo: Supplied

It’s fair to say that Ryan Gosling has been sorely missed. After directing Lost River in 2014 and starring in 2015’s The Big Short, Gosling’s return sees him tackling a role that relies on slapstick comedy. The Nice Guys might reek of a detective buddy comedy, but Gosling’s portrayal as an inept but somewhat endearing private eye who pairs up with a fellow investigator, played by - for once, the surprisingly tolerable - Russell Crowe, is why the film thrives.

Set in 1977, children comfortably approach strangers and read stories outside in the middle of the night. Also, the porn industry is alive and well, as it makes its mark on the United States of America. Interestingly, that’s also how the film gains momentum.

Gosling plays private detective Holland March and to be blatantly honest, he’s just not fit for the job. His young daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), even calls him “the world’s worst detective”. Sending himself to hospital after trying to break into a building, getting drunk while on the job, and having Holly chauffeur him to shoddy cases - very few of us would disagree with her sentiment. The extent of his inabilities are shown when he takes on easy jobs, swindling old widows and aunts out of their money.

But, sometimes, you need to be at a low point in your life to come out of it. Even if you don’t want to. Either that or the easiest jobs turn out to be the most difficult ones.

Following the death of her niece, porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), Mrs Glenn (Lois Smith) still believes she’s alive - having sworn she saw Misty at her home. However, the likelihood of that is, well, impossible. Paid by Mrs Glenn to work on the case, Holland finds a connection between Misty and a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). However, Amelia doesn’t want to be found and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), an enforcer, makes sure Holland gets the message. But as the pair become more interlinked with the case, a slow burn friendship begins. And with the help of Holly, the three are wrangled into solving a government conspiracy.     

Despite their differences, Jackson and Holland both share a sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment in their lives. But there’s no crusade to tackle these feelings, or to turn either of them into heroes in an idolised sense of the term. Instead, it’s through the clean execution of dialogue that the actors excel. This type of chemistry with each other, and with the youngest member of their detective team, pushes the film beyond expectation.

However, it’s also this same humour that might give some a cause for concern. The audience, predominantly young men, were happily sedated with punchlines about pornography. And with no hesitation, they laughed at a naked woman spluttering her last words after her car had just veered off a cliff. When that’s the opening scene, it’s a little unsettling to know this is what the people I’m sitting close to are all about.

Dare I say it, in layman’s terms, The Nice Guys is aesthetically lit. The over-appreciation for orange, muddy brown, and avocado green runs rampant, giving the film a very real vibrancy of being in the ‘70s. Alongside a strong cast, it’s those little comforts that the audience easily fall into with the film. However, it’s Gosling’s intricate delivery of slapstick comedy that truly keep the laughter going, overshadowing cringeworthy scenes and lines that might have been expected, but weren’t particularly useful in any way. 

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