Cannes 2016: The Nice Guys

I covered Cannes Film Festival this year, and I will be posting my reviews on here daily. My pieces are on a website known as The Upcoming and have been published in something called Swipe magazine.

It is difficult to resist this amusing, silly buddy action comedy, starring a very game Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as private investigators following the clues after the apparent suicide of renowned porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). The nostalgic seventies soundtrack and LA setting is immensely seductive, even extending to the film’s typeface, and Shane Black’s witty script contains enough laughs and smirks to mitigate the threadbare, nonsensical plot. A lot of the film relies on the chemistry between the two leads. Crowe is appropriately hard-bitten as grizzled hired enforcer Jackson Healy; and Gosling, naturally more comfortable than Crowe with comic material, is very funny here. He plays weedy, alcoholic private eye Holland March, a character that well complements the stature and values of the extremely thickset, teetotal Healy.

As stated, the plot does not withstand much scrutiny. March is given a job by an elderly, half-blind woman to search for a missing young girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who in turn calls upon Healy to frighten March off. Healy turns up at March’s house, breaks March’s arm and persuades him to give up on his investigations. But in time-honoured fashion it is not long before both deadbeats are working together to link the suicide and disappearance, meanwhile uncovering a criminal conspiracy that extends to the summit of the justice department.

Angourie Rice gives a good performance as Healy’s whip smart 13-year-old daughter Holly, and Kim Basinger surreally turns up – almost as an afterthought – as Amelia’s mother, Judith. Both roles are completely underdeveloped, merely acting as devices to cover up the gaping plot holes. But these characters’ free up and facilitate the fun to be had with the two leads, as both men violently and enjoyably crash their way into LA parties and the recesses of the “experimental movie” circuit, or the porn industry as it is sometimes referred to.

There are some ludicrous gunfights, extended beatings and vehicular explosions, and Black’s direction causes some of the more frantic scenes to be cluttered and confusing. But the Tarantino-style conversations between the leads raise a snigger, and some of the visual comedy is pitched brilliantly – one henchman’s balcony fall drew applause from the Cannes audience. Not as funny as it thinks it is in parts, there still should be a lot of goodwill shown toward the film: this is excellent popcorn entertainment.

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Joseph Owen

PhD, Carl Schmitt, Modernism and Sovereignty at University of Southampton

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