Pornography isn’t supposed to be intellectually stimulating, it’s supposed to arouse your sexual organs and get your mind on the topic of sexual intercourse. It generally exploits the sexual act, but sometimes there is a story to help the viewer get into a theme and turn them on.
But what if you throw politics into your pornographic video? Doesn’t it lose it’s lustre? Well, this week’s movie review explores exactly that, with some gratuitous results.
The Nice Guys (2016)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger
Director: Shane Black
released on blu-ray August 23, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Audience Score 80%
The Guardian: ****/*****
Shane Black is an American writer, director, producer, and sometimes actor.
With a very interesting history in film, he has written the first two Lethal Weapon movies, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and disaster The Long Kiss Goodnight before venturing into the realm of director a decade later in a great career recovery. As a writer/director he has been responsible for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 (which Chris loves to remind me is basically the same movie as KKBB) and now The Nice Guys. It should also be noted that he has The Predator sequel, The Destroyer, and Doc Savage on his plate to release in the next few years.
Are you get a theme here folks? Black is excellently prepared to create action based movie, especially those which fit inside of noir universes. So where does The Nice Guys fit into this mix, you ask?
Well, it’s kind of an amazing story about two second-rate PIs that initially start out at odds but end up working together to investigate what is supposed to be the suicide of a Los Angeles porn star in the 1970s. One of the men, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired by the victims aunt to find Misty, as the aunt believes Misty is still alive. March is somewhat skeptical, but takes the job. He then finds out that a missing girl named Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley) is involved. Amelia hires enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to keep March off her trail. But after he is jumped by two thugs looking for Amelia, Healy realizes they are part of something larger, and involves March so they can work together to solve the Misty Mountain suicide. March’s teenage daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) tags along as well, as she doesn’t think March will follow through.
The two PIs and Holly eventually unravel a much larger plot that involves an experimental porn/documentary which Misty Mountains starred in, and which Amelia helped create. The video exposes how Detroit automakers are working with the government to prevent a mandatory inclusion of catalytic converters into new vehicles. Amelia’s mother Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger) is an important official in the US Department of Justice, but it turns out she is part of the conspiracy as well, and has been working with the thugs to confuse March and Healy.
Ultimately, March and Healy are able to get a copy of the film to the police after it is shown at an auto show as part of a secret protest by the projectionist Misty and Amelia worked with. Judith goes to jail, but the Detroit automakers are immune from charges. Healy and March decide to continue to work together, and name their agency, The Nice Guys.
It is an excellent story wrapped about a buddy cop comedy, and featuring a healthy amount of self-aware violence and dark humour. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling is undeniable, but Angourie Rice is excellent as the bright-eyed, yet sharp, Holly. Her inclusion manages to elevate a form of filmmaking that has seen better years.
Pros: It’s oddly refreshing given that the premise of the story is about clean air and dirty pictures. The contrasting styles of it’s two male leads, and the absurdist situations they get themselves into well keep you engaged. And the conscious efforts of young Holly March provide a ground.
Cons: The story felt a little pressured to follow through in places, it might have been nice (intentional pun) to see some breathability between scenes and set changes.
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Points of Interest: As the movies starts, and Holland March is monologuing, a porno theatre is playing a movie called Bang Bang Kiss Kiss. Shane Black films typically feature Christmas in them, this one has a scene towards the ends that takes place at Christmas.
This film features incredibly common action tropes of people being thrown through windows, traditional explosions, and shootouts. But the action is never the centre of the story, rather it reminds you how odd sex and death are, and makes your head shake as work through the plot of the film. The Nice Guys is a buddy cop comedy for this generation, a little more sophisticated, but not completely removed from it’s history.
The Nice Guys doesn’t get too hung up on the pornography itself or even the industry as it’s story progresses along, but it does find an avenue to engage it’s audience in a rather intense way. This has a lot to do with Black’s familiarity with the action and comedy genres, and his ability to use both in interesting ways. The Nice Guys aren’t really that nice, but they get the job done.