Shane Black’s The Nice Guys starts out great—then falters into schizophrenic territory towards the end. Multiple conclusions often tell of broken stories and misguided purpose; storyforms that start, then fade away. For stories to setup the potentials for greater meaning only to eventually ignore or forget them somewhere down the road breaks a tremendous amount of trust between Author and audience.
Here, the fractured narrative lies in the film starting with one star as the clear Influence Character and then inserting a crazed scene of him as Main Character out of nowhere. Ryan Gosling’s Holland March is clearly the Influence Character to Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healy. While we gain personal insight into Healy’s difficult and troublesome past, we know little of Holland’s scheme behind the scenes. Main Characters offer Audiences a personal experience from which to engage in the story’s conflict. We attach ourselves to them and empathize with their struggle, I know exactly how he feels…
Holland’s eventual psychedelic sleep-at-the-wheel drug interlude is weaved from a Main Character point-of-view. We are Holland experiencing that moment. Subconsciously or consciously, the Audience disengages at the moment as the storymind turns neurotic. It plays funny—but it also plays funny with the established structure of the film.
From there, a bad situation only grows worse as one false ending finds itself replaced by the next.
The first hour of The Nice Guys is great. Both Gosling and Crowe play off each other in a way that is delightfully entertaining. In short, The Nice Guys is one of those “Fun, But Broken” films that sit high on Entertainment, but low on Structure.