*NEW* THE NICE GUYS REVIEW *NEW*

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this ain’t.

A mismatched pair of private eyes (Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe) investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

From the mad opening sequence of a pornstar crashing her car into a family home, I knew what I was getting myself into. One mad ride.

Writer/director Shane Black is back with a new noir thriller and a dysfunctional duo in Crowe and Gosling as the private eyes who unwittingly get involved in the same case.

Crowe was brilliant was the no holds barred ‘punch first ask questions later’ Jackson Healey. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like his character after his macho introduction. Black’s lines didn’t really fly out at me like Kiss Kiss BUT there were still a few jewels: “Marriage is buying a house for somebody you hate. Remember that”.

Crowe playing yet another hard man. Here we go. BUT once he crossed paths with the equally mental Holland March, I knew we were in for a treat.

The pair had great chemistry and worked well off each other. Gosling stole the show. After seeing him in so many super serious dramas; Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines and Only God Forgives (God forgive whoever made that movie), it made a change to see him play such an idiot.

He was hilarious and made the fumbling fool look effortless. Cutting up his hand trying to break into an office. Dropping his gun on numerous occasions. The guy literally falls into trouble. A running gag with the drunk detective falling everywhere had me in stitches.

Despite all the tomfoolery, March and Healey were perfect noir protagonists. Healey, the man with a grudge. Out to right wrongs. No matter the cost. March, a man on the edge seeking solace in the bottom of a bottle after losing his wife. We introduced to the guy fulled dressed in the bath. A tattoo on his right hand saying; “You will never be happy”.

The first 45 minutes was fantastic. It was mad, quick witted and confusing as hell. Everything I expected from Black. It ticked all the boxes.

Keith David (The Thing) and Beau Knapp (Southpaw) were great as the appropriately titled Older Guy and Blue Face. Two murky underlings hot on the pair’s track to find the only witness to the crazy case.

The introduction of Angourie Rice as March’s daughter Holly gave March an extra depth and showed a softer side to Healey. However, she soon overstayed her welcome and took a good portion of the attention (and gags) away from the pair.

Her ‘moral compass’ viewpoint and busybody detective solving got on my nerves and killed a lot of the fun for me. And that was the problem, a heavy middle act got bogged down by too many serious moments and a befuddling plot.

Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) was dreadfully irritating as Amelia. The running gag of her (Well, running away) got on my nerves. Her constant reappearances throughout the film really tested my patience. I’m sure that was the point BUT it didn’t leave me smiling.

Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) was heavily underused as the merciless hitman. A change of role BUT anyone could have played him. Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) was also wasted in her role as the shady Chief Justice. She may be looking good at 62 BUT her character was pushed in the background too much. Just another generic corrupt politician. Shame.

“Okay, that explains basically nothing” – The plot, despite all its intentional contrivances, was actually quite predictable and a little flat after all the mystery.

The lumbering pace and the snappy one liners lost their zing. BUT thankfully, a frantic and fiery final act restored it back on track.

It was tough NOT to draw comparisons with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. An underrated and heavily recommended watch. BUT this was still good fun and definitely a breath of fresh air after the feeble efforts I’ve slogged through.

Despite my grumbles, I still enjoyed it. Thanks to the crazy coupling of Crowe and Gosling.

3/5

I will leave you with one of my favourite scenes and the best movie line I’ve heard in a while.

 

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Inside Llewyn Davis Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis (that sounds incredibly rude! Pack it up. Come on, we’re better than that). Well . . . a mixed bag of sorts. Great cast, great performances, good songs but a somewhat slackening pace and a journey that gets incredibly bleak and downbeat with a somewhat flat ending. Not the Coens worst, but certainly not their best.

Looking back at the Coen Brothers’ filmography, I can’t help but feel how their films come off as marmite to me. At their best, we have the Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men (after numerous viewings for a dissertation on contemporary noir, it went from meh to brilliant). At their worst, Burn After Reading and the shambolic Ealing classic remake the Ladykillers. Inside Llewyn Davis is somewhat in the middle of these two categories. The cast cannot be faltered. The pair have found a leading man in Oscar Isaac as Llewyn. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the chap. I had to IMDb him. Turns out, he played supporting roles in Robin Hood, Sucker Punch and Drive. Well, I’ll keep tabs on him now and expect to see him in more movies after this performance. He provided much depth and brought a likeable if conflicted and flawed protagonist to life.

The things that irritates and always surrounds the Coens films is the needless hype. After the uproar at their omission from most of the “important” categories of the Oscars, I expected much more from this. I believe Isaac should have got a nod for Best Actor. His singing was fantastic as well. We follow struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis as he battles the wintery conditions of the Greenwich village scene as he tries to get his music out there, despite having no money, no home and no coat. The Coens provide their usual checklist light hearted humour and the first hour blazes along quite nicely, with the aid of a great cast of supporting characters, including the likes of the erratic Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. Hardly need to say much about JT’s singing, after all, it is his profession (He nails it). I was surprised at how good Mulligan was. You could argue that their characters don’t have enough screen time but when they do, they all excel. The humourous episode with Llewyn being stuck with a ginger cat and the numerous attempts to capture it were a nice aside. The songs are memorable and sung well. It turns out most of the folk songs were sung live. If any were mimed, then either the sound editing and dubbing was executed perfectly or Mr Timberlake may too good a mime artist, but I digress. It does help to enjoy or be fan of folk music. Fare Thee Well, Hang Me, Oh Hang Me and the annoyingly catchy Please Mr Kennedy were the stand out ones for me. Please Mr Kennedy may have been a deliberate jab at the stupidity of jingles and catchy songs just to get a hit but it is a good song in itself.

The film is hardly original in it’s telling of one man’s journey trying to get a break. If anything the Coens truly demonstrate perfectly a protagonist’s stage of nadir (the bottom of the barrel) with the road trip from hell. The movie turns and gets incredibly dark and painfully bleak (to be expected from the Coens) with the sinister scene stealing supporting turn of a Coens regular, the legend that is John Goodman as cane-tapping Roland Turner. He growls and grumbles along, milking every minute. (Unfortunately, the poor bloke has put the pounds back on. Some might be saying, did he even lose weight?). We drudge along through this bleak journey as you hope Llewyn get’s that break. He’s not completely painted as the victim. Was he a victim of the times? Or was he afraid to actually get success? Was the rut that he had been put in due to pure bad luck? Or was it down to his own accord? You feel for Llewyn when he has no coat, seeks anybody who can spot a spare couch and tries to warm his icy soaked feet under the cafe table but at the same time, you get angry for him when he gets work that is not to his ideals, he snubs it. He snaps at the only people who are helping him.

However, the end result leaves you somewhat slighted. The journey goes full circle and without spoiling too much, ends unexpectedly and very flat. If anything it was quite disappointing, especially when you’re rooting for this underdog. All in all, not a complete failure. The songs are still stuck in my head, the performances are brilliant and there are more pros than cons but in context of the Oscar categories and best film of the year? Not so much. Another hype bites the dust? Coens do folk, I guess. Get back on the crime movies, guys! 3/5

Currently ranks #54 out of 130