‘The Nice Guys’ – wise guy action on Netflix

Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice in Shane Black's 'The Nice Guys'

Shane Black helped remake the modern American action movie with his screenplays Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. For The Nice Guys (2016), he slips into flashback mode for a tribute to the old school action movies and private eye thrillers of the 1970s mixed with Black’s knowing sense of humor.

Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a screw-up of a private eye in a constant alcohol stupor, still reeling from the death of his wife and a lousy (if loving) father to his whipsmart-beyond-her-years adolescent daughter (Angourie Rice). Russell Crowe, who has gotten heavy in his middle years, is heavy-for-hire Jackson Healy, a man with a code even as he skirts the law with his own fistfuls of justice. So no, they’re not really nice guys but they are a match made in buddy movie heaven and they are on a longshot hunt for the missing daughter of the Los Angeles DA (Kim Basinger) that takes them to the mansion of a porn kingpin and land them in the crosshairs of a trio of hitmen.

It’s a bit sloppy as private eye movies go and Black is all over the place, with slapstick antics (including Gosling doing a wheezing Lou Costello in one bit that probably sounded better in the pitch meeting) mixed in with his smart-ass attitude, exaggerated seventies style crimes, splashy action scenes, and a tongue-in-cheek approach to tough guy tropes. But Black likes his characters and loves the genre and that’s enough to make the tribute / pastiche / affection parody work. Not as well as his superior Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, mind you, but better than you might expect.

Matt Bomer, Keith David, Lois Smith, and Margaret Qualley costar.

It’s rated R for all the reasons you’d expect.

Add to My List on Netflix

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay, and other services.
The Nice Guys [DVD]
The Nice Guys [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultraviolet Combo Pack]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases include two very brief EPK-style featurettes. The Blu-ray also features bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies of the film.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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