The Ninjabot

THE NICE GUYS (2016) Review

Posted on May 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm by Dylan Reynolds



I grew up loving Shane Black movies before I even knew what a screenwriter was. And as I got more into movies and appreciative of all the various crafts- I became more aware of the innovations Black brought to the table- especially to the action film genre.

His first credit as co-writer of 87’s MONSTER SQUAD isn’t a bad start- the one time “Goonies meets the Universal Monsters” cult classic has since evolved into a stone cold classic at this point. His follow up released the same year- LETHAL WEAPON- is often credited at creating the “buddy cop” sub genre- and I would even argue informed nearly every action flick of the later 80s and into the 90s (quips/ clever one liners mixed with hard hitting action).lethal_weapon

LAST BOY SCOUT (1991) became perhaps the most Bruce Willis/ Bruce Willis flick ever made- where he was his most hung over, morally conflicted, chain smoking and smart ass Bruce Willis we could ever hope and dream for- and in many ways we never got again. The Tony Scott directed/ over saturated lensed opus also seemed to foretell the evolution of the “80s action flick” into the excessiveness of the Jerry Bruckheimer/ Michael Bay era.

Therefore it’s perhaps fitting that Black’s “meta commentary/ parody” on the genre he helped create and innovate in LAST ACTION HERO (1993) would famously get trampled by some Spielberg CGI dinosaurs that same summer. It could be said that Last Action Hero’s box office disappointment- even though the film itself was attempting to be “kid friendly”- marked the turning point where summer flicks became PG-13 “CGI festooned tentpoles” in place of R-rated “shoot ‘em up” thrillers.

Shane Black wrapped up the 90s with the underrated LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (1996), which in many ways marked the moment where Black cemented himself as the first “auteur screenwriter”. This is because even though Black hadn’t directed a film at that point- each of his scripts showed many of the same tropes, obsessions, and themes carried over from film to film. All of which came full circle with Long Kiss in that he started really playing with the conventions and expectations audiences had.  Shane Black was still innovating.

Then came a long dormant period (where it’s rumored he did some “ghost writing”/ script doctoring) and in 2005 came his debut kiss_kiss_bang_bang_ver1as writer/ director with the fantastic KISS KISS BANG BANG. Unfortunately the film was not successful upon its release (because people suck)- but it quickly found a second life on home video and paved the way towards revitalizing Robert Downey’s career and ultimately helping him land the role of Tony Stark/ Iron Man and obscene amounts of money.

Downey admirably returned the favor and got Black the writing/ directing gig for IRON MAN 3 (2013). The third Tony Stark adventure ranks pretty high for me amongst the Marvel movies and I love that it was “Shane Black’s take on the superhero genre”. Despite the bemoaning of fanboys over the “mistreatment” of a racist/ “yellow peril” antiquated stereotype- it is still the most daring attempt in a Marvel movie to “shake up the formula”. In fact- Black’s “twist” took some balls and once again showed his greatest strength as an action/ thriller filmmaker; he knows how to tell these kind of stories like the back of his hand- and he’s so good at it that he knows how to play with those expectations and is therefore unpredictable- and hence his movies/ scripts are all the more entertaining and memorable for it.

Needles to say- IRON MAN 3 made a butt load of cash and gave Black the creative freedom to basically do “whatever the hell he wanted” with his follow up. And thankfully he has used that clout to make another “Shane Black movie” with THE NICE GUYS. In many ways NICE GUYS can be seen as a fine companion piece (or spiritual cousin) to KISS KISS BANG BANG in that it’s a darkly humorous take on the pulpy “p.i. mystery” set in the sun drenched land of “palm trees and lost angels”.573c85d593763.image

The plot: A “ne’er do well” private detective and single father (Ryan Gosling- who looks like he’s relishing in the opportunity to play a non perfect/ heroic/ sexy pretty boy) joins up with a “fighting ‘round the world” hired muscle (a “better performance than what you’ve seen from him lately” Russell Crowe) in search of a missing young woman that has some connection to a dead porn star. Along with Gosling’s amateur sleuthing daughter (a fun Angourie Rice) the trio go from the bowels of the 70s porn industry and into the upper echelons of government and high powered business- in search of not only the missing girl- but a recently produced pornographic movie whose plot and storyline holds the key to unlocking a vast “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”- level conspiracy.

Like most Shane Black films the “mystery plot” (though better developed this time around than some of his other movies) is merely a framework for him to indulge in the characters, humor, and tropes/ themes/ obsessions he has become known for. And as one would expect- THE NICE GUYS is practically a checklist of what distinctively makes a “Shane Black movie a Shane Black movie”. Among the one’s I picked up on:

There’s a mis-matched and constantly bickering “buddy couple” who are brought together by circumstance to solve a mystery (usually involving a kidnapping or “missing person”) and to “set things right with the world”. The pair start off seemingly hating each other but soon evolve into an oddly touching “bromance” and by the end they become something of a dysfunctional but loving “family”.


The “heart” of the movie lies in the redemption arc of its flawed hero (i.e. Gosling is this movie’s Riggs)- who despite his shortcomings and past history rises to the occasion and not only saves the day- but redeems themselves in the eyes of their spouse/ child/ family. They are usually aided in their quest by a precocious child and invariably have to face down a demented henchman who is “really good at his job” (i.e. killing people.)   But this time around (from my recollection) we don’t really get the typical third act “extended torture scene and kidnapping”. But not to worry- Black drops in a “Christmas setting” in the films final scene/ denouement.

So yes- one could say that NICE GUYS “is the same old song” for Shane Black but once again these motifs aren’t just him repeating himself. Somehow he tells the same story but in widely different ways- and to take the song metaphor further- he finds different notes and beats to play in between which makes NICE GUYS both different and just as entertaining as anything he’s done before.

Judging on the merits of “other films he’s directed” I would say I was more impressed/ wowed upon first viewing of KISS KISS BANG BANG. But I do acknowledge that NICE GUYS is in many ways a more mature film. It’s dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsstill hilarious and clever but I felt the theme of the “hero’s redemption” to be more poignant. I’m sure Gosling’s performance deserves much of the credit- but I would venture to say that it’s just another sign that Shane Black is only getting better at telling these stories.

Going forward Black is poised to return to the “tentpoles” with a PREDATOR reboot and the long- developing adaptation of the pulp adventure hero DOC SAVAGE. I very much look forward to these future projects- but I even more hope that they would be successful in order to allow Black to once again “do whatever the hell he wants” and every few years we’ll get an uncompromised “Shane Black movie”.

And to that point… if you’re one of those annoying people that bitch and moan about there being “too many superhero movies etc.” then here you go… a clever, mature and original R-rated film. And if you (predictably) don’t go see this movie- and ANGRY BIRDS or whatever dominates instead- then you are indeed part of the problem and should just slap yourself or at least get your arm broken by Russell Crowe.

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