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The Nice Guys (2016)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/23/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/18/2016

You may have heard it said that Hollywood loves a comeback story. Given how catty and jealous people in showbiz can be, I doubt the sincerity of this statement. But, despite the sentiment, or lack thereof, I believe that many people do love a comeback story, and there aren't many like that of Shane Black. Black became a "wunderkind" screenwriter in the 80s with Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout to his credit. But, then Black essentially disappeared until 2005 when he came back with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which also marked his directorial debut. But, then he disappeared again, only to come roaring back again by directing 2013's Iron Man 3. Thankfully, Black didn't lapse back into another lengthy hiatus, as he's returned with The Nice Guys.

Los Angeles, 1977: Private Detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) has been hired to find a missing woman. Unfortunately for Holland, enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) has been hired to stop Holland. Therefore, Holland decides to drop the case, much to the chagrin of his teenaged daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), who often questions her father's motivations. When a pair of thugs try to kill Jackson, all the while mentioning the missing girl's name, he approaches Holland and suggests that the two team up to find out what is really happening. This leads them into a bizarre world in which big business and sleazy films overlap. Can these opposite actually set aside their differences and solve this case? And will they survive?

If you have not seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, go watch it right now! I'll wait. There you'll find a film in which Robert Downey Jr. plays a dim-witted crook who becomes an actor and Val Kilmer plays a no-nonsense private detective. The two find themselves involved in a mystery taking place in Los Angeles. Downey's character rarely has any idea what he is doing and Kilmer is often exasperated with him. The Nice Guys is not a sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but it should certainly be considered a spiritual successor, as the two movies are very, very similar. Beyond the obvious fact that both involve mysteries in Los Angeles, the tones of both movies are parallels and the characters could be interchangeable. Holland is goofy and rarely seems to know what he's doing, but that doesn't stop him from charging head-first into things. Healy is gruff and impatient and is often annoyed by Holland's actions.

And just as in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black's combination of action and comedy works. The Nice Guys doesn't hold back when it comes to the action scenes and the film is quite violent at times. Gunshots, vehicular homicide, throat-slitting -- there's a lot going on here. All of this is juxtaposed with the film's humor and there are some very funny moments here, most of which come from Holland's bumbling behavior. There are also some humorous lines here as well. It would probably be a misnomer to call the movie a comedy, but it is certainly funny. Which brings me to one of the points which sold me on The Nice Guys. I have little patience for actors who present themselves as overly serious. (I'm looking at you Denzel.) It's great to see Gosling truly letting himself go in this role and showing that he can be funny. Crowe is funny as well, but in a much more controlled manner.

If there's a problem with The Nice Guys, it's the story. At the outset, the mystery is intriguing, but once we learn what is really happening, it's not all that interesting, and in actuality, it's sort of lame. The movie also attempts to push the noir staple of having the "real" mystery emerge once the first mystery has been solved. This approach makes the movie feel a bit long. If the movie had been about fifteen minutes shorter, it would have been much better. I will say this for Black, there is a shocking death in the film that I did not see coming. All of that aside, there is no one else working today who seems to understand that you can have flawed (or very flawed) heroes that do not do things perfectly, but still get the job done like Black does. It may not demonstrate any sort of range, but it Black wants to make another movie in this vein, I certainly wouldn't mind.

The Nice Guys shows us a time when billboards were much different on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source materials or noticeable grain. The colors look very good, most notably the reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the image has nice depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. This is a very active track which takes advantage of the various locations in the film. A big party scene delivers audio to the stereo and surround channels, while the action-packed finale brings us nice subwoofer action and detailed sounds from the rear channels.

The Nice Guys Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. "Always Bet on Black" (5 minutes) is a sort-of profile of Shane Black which places emphasis on having the cast and creative team talk about working with Black. We get a nice amount of on-set footage here. "Worst. Detectives. Ever. Making The Nice Guys" (6 minutes) is a making-of featurette which begins with the origin of the script, looks at the casting, and then examines the production.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long