Blu-ray Review: The Nice Guys

By , Contributor
How in the world did The Nice Guys strike out at the box office upon its release in early summer 2016? The Shane Black-directed mystery/comedy succeeds as knockout entertainment on all levels. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling make for a charismatic, funny, endearing team as enforcer Jackson Healy and P.I. Holland March (respectively). They're trying to solve the mystery behind a missing woman in heart of the '70s-era adult film world in Los Angeles. And as Holland's teen daughter Holly, newcomer Angourie Rice steals the entire show with her portrayal of the moral conscience at the center of much violence and debauchery. The story takes surprising twists, the soundtrack is a perfectly curated blast of '70s rock and soul, and there's even a neat Abbott and Costello tribute thrown in for good measure.

So if that sounds intriguing, don't make the same mistake twice—see The Nice Guys now that it's available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Come to think of it, maybe it was the film's unmemorable, too-generic title that sealed its fate. Sure, there's a reason it's titled that (as the film's denouement makes perfectly plain), but it might have been a bit hard to market such an indistinct title. Never mind that though, it's a 'must see' for anyone seeking adult-oriented (yes, its R-rating is well deserved) thrills and laughs. 
Nice guys 1 (380x253).jpg Following the opening-act death of porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), Jackson and Holland March meet (rather violently) and wind up an unlikely team in the middle of a mystery. One of Misty’s colleagues, actually a porn newbie, Amelia (Margaret Qualley), is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, Misty's elderly aunt is totally convinced she's been seeing—alive. As Jackson and Holland dig deeper into the case, the auto industry and the United States Department of Justice turn out to play just as important of roles as the seedy porn underbelly of L.A.

Truth be told, The Nice Guys is retro in look and in structure—it's basically an old-fashioned mystery that only reveals its cards on an as-needed basis. Viewers are kept guessing as new pieces to the puzzle are introduced, not the least of which being DOJ honcho (and Amelia's mother) Judith (Kim Basinger, reuniting with her L.A. Confidential co-star Crowe in what amounts to an extended cameo). When all is said and done, the only reasonable gripe is that a super-long action climax arguably adds more to the running time (116 minutes) than is needed. But again, director Black (who co-wrote the screenplay with Anthony Bagarozzi) keeps the pacing nimble for the most part. 
Nice guys 2 (380x248).jpg And again it must be mentioned, the star-in-the-making is Angourie Rice as Holland’s teen daughter Holly. She's got a real knack for delivering a punchline with subtlety (including, but not limited to, hilariously correcting a porn star on her grammar). But more than a comic sidekick (she stows away on her dad's case-related outings), she mines a real emotional vein that gives the film depth it might not have otherwise had. Her ne'er do well dad struggles with too much booze and not enough paying jobs, leaving her to fantasize (quite literally, on a vacant lot meant to be her family's home) about a more stable life. She also convinces the normally steely Jackson to actually contemplate his acts of violence. Plus Gosling and Crowe have arguably never been looser and more likable than right here in these fully realized roles.

Despite being shot digitally, The Nice Guys' cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (A River Runs Through It earned him an Academy Award in 1992) gives this a warm, rich, slight soft-focus '70s film-era vibe. Warner's Blu-ray presents this perfectly in its high def transfer. Action sound effects (gunfire, car chases, etc) and period tunes all sound awesome as part of the lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix.

The only disappointment is the Blu-ray's near-total lack of worthwhile special features. "Always Bet on Black" is a five-minute promo piece focuses on director Shane Black. "Worst. Detectives. Ever. Making The Nice Guys" is a puff piece that's hardly worth the six minutes it takes to sit through. The Blu-ray package comes with a standard DVD and a Digital HD copy. Best advice: don't be deterred by the minimal special features. The Nice Guys has replay value to spare.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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