When promotional material for The Nice Guys came out, my first thought was there was very little to have an objection to: you had two more than familiar faces in Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad) and Russell Crowe (L.A. Confidential), in a film written and directed by Shane Black that is a romantic little brother to his wonderful Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for a story set in 1970s Los Angeles. On that premise, what's not to like?
Where Black's Kiss Kiss featured voiceover that seemed to help walk the viewer along the outside of the film, Nice Guys does have moments of voiceover early in the film, to help explain the backstory and motivations of its two private detective characters. Jackson (Crowe) is a guy who lives over a comedy club and still appears to be putting his life together after his wife left him, but does retain some sense of morality. Holland (Gosling) has a little bit of a looser moral structure, but is good at what he does, and does so while raising an 11-year old daughter. They are unwillingly thrown together to find out the real cause of death of a porn star, after the ruling of suicide seemed dubious.
The performances by both men are also up to the task. Crowe embraces a straight man role of sorts for him, which makes his character's conflict poignant and even a little touching. It's Gosling, however, who steals the show. I'm convinced he wanted to do a tribute to Jerry Lewis with Holland, and it generally works. He shows off physical comedy, he does facial mannerisms, and generally shows a slapstick side that he seems to have been working on for some time. Witness everything his character does in a second act party in a house in the Hollywood Hills as they try to find a girl they've been tasked to seek. Holland runs the gamut of humor in and around that house. On a related note, Angourie Rice (These Final Hours) does a wonderful job as Gosling's daughter in the film. She serves as his rationale or even his common sense at times and it's perhaps a breakout performance for the youngster.
A nice thing about The Nice Guys is that Black's script (with Anthony Bagarozzi) combined with his direction, conveys the message that as a viewer, you're there to revel in the chemistry and the laughs from the stars. It might not have been intentional mind you, but it stumbles into that rhythm. There's nothing about the antagonists or story conflict in the film that's memorable when you finish it, if anything the antagonist is a little far-fetched and convoluted, though an appearance from Kim Basinger (The 11th Hour) is pleasant to see. You have a good idea that Gosling & Crowe will probably wind up smiling at the end of the film, Black seems to know that too, so he has fun with them, and makes for a better film as a result.
Where Kiss Kiss Bang Bang showed us a reintroduction of sorts of Shane Black's storytelling to moviegoers, The Nice Guys is a pleasant reminder of it, and seeing Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe get the most of their characters is also a treat. It doesn't set to reinvent the wheel or customize it somehow, it enjoys the ride, as you should.The Blu-ray:
Presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and in high-definition using the AVC codec, The Nice Guys is an attractive tour through Los Angeles. The greens and browns of Los Angeles at the time are replicated well, and when the film goes into nighttime, the black levels are inky and present a nice contrast, especially against the lights and the neon of the porn producer's party. Reds of blood appear natural and equally vivid and the film possesses enough detail in fabrics and woods to make you feel like you're in the era. This is a nicely done transfer from Warner.The Sound:
The 5.1 DTS-MA lossless track is not as music-forward as you'd presume, though when the songs do kick it, they help show off the soundstage and have excellent dynamic range. The subwoofer gets more activity over the course of the film than I expected and the soundtrack proves to be well-balanced whether it's gunfights, explosions or car crashes, or quieter moments between the leads. The audio is up to the task the video laid before it.The Extras:
Feh. "Worst. Detectives. Ever." (6:16) is the film's making of, where Black talks about the script and how long it bounced around, and the cast share their thoughts on the story, each other, and the roles they portray. "Always Bet on Black" (5:27) is a piece on the writer/director with tributes by the cast and crew. And an Ultraviolet code (with no iTunes one?) completes things with the standard definition disc.Final Thoughts:
Let's say you hear something good about someone's reputation, and you've heard it so long you've sort of built it up in your head it'll be great. Then you meet that person, and they were everything you hoped they would be, right? The movie equivalent of that for me would have to be The Nice Guys, as the characters and actors who inhabit them, just make you feel good in seeing them on screen. Technically, the disc looks and sounds excellent, though I would have liked more from the disc, be it a gag reel, commentary, what have you. But if you missed this in movie theaters when it came out, you have little excuse now, go see it.