The Nice Guys

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Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this film. However, while it has all the trimmings of Neo-Noir, it really betrays the genre in a few critical ways. But I’ll get to that in a minute: spoilers ahead.

The high points of the film include some good nods towards the British crime films of the 2000’s such as Snatch and In Bruges. The film hits some really great notes in the plot and characters. The beginning of the film lays on some really good noir flavor with a 1970’s LA setting, a muscle for hire with a heart of gold, and a flawed detective who is more sleazy than successful. There are some great moments of humor that weave their way in and out of the story, and the detective’s daughter tagging along is unusual but was actually compelling here.

If you watch this expecting a normal crime film you won’t be disappointed. The problem with this film as neo-noir lies in three main areas:

  1. The conspiracy goes too big. The stakes get too big. The action gets too big. Good noir keeps the stakes small, with the main characters lives being the largest thing at stake. This film portrays Big Auto as a totally corrupt and powerful industry. The shades of gray that are so prominent in good noir are remarkably absent here, and while our heroes are flawed, the lines between good and bad are still too clear.
  2. The women in this film are very one dimensional. There is no Femme Fatale, and you know from the start which women are going to be bad guys. They kind of try to make Tally a sort of femme fatale, but it falls flat. So very flat. And honestly her character is completely peripheral. Everything that she did in the film as Judith’s assistant could have been done by Judith herself. For having a critical portion of the plot hang on the death of a porn star, the production of a pornographic “Experimental Film”, and the Las Vegas mob supposedly expanding their pornographic interests to LA, this film has a staunch lack of necessary female characters. Even though Judith could be considered a major character, her role is surprisingly minor. The influence she could have had on the story was divided up between her character, John Boy, and Tally, which really left no one as the ultimate villain. In my opinion, this film should have had a critical female character who the audience is not sure if they can trust. At the very least the film could have used a female character that wasn’t just a male character played by a woman.
  3. Lastly, and most frustrating for me, is the scene after they find the missing girl. They have two sides of the story, the mom’s which says her daughter is crazy and thinks that her mom is trying to have her killed, and the daughter’s story which says that her mom is trying to prevent the release of the “Experimental Film” that threatens to expose the corrupt auto industry. Faced with this conflicting possibilities, any noir detective would play his cards close to his chest. However, this detective just spills all the information about the daughter to the mom as soon as they have found the girl. To me, this betrays the noir detective.

Perhaps any one of these issues could have been included without losing the noir feel, but for me, the trio is just too much. I guess a noir “vibe” is about all that is here, while it fails to resonate with the true nature of noir, the darkest alleys, the moral shades of gray, the viewer should be unsure who he can trust.

Again, if you go into this film to enjoy it for the fun, crime film that it is, you won’t be disappointed.

-Anderson Ryle