The Nice Guys

Director: Shane Black (2016)

Since his first writing success with Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon (1987), writer/director Shane Black has spent his career creating crowd pleasing action comedies.

After recent blockbuster superhero success with Iron Man 3 (2013) he’s back with another smartly written, explosive and character driven adventure, riffing on Los Angeles detective noir such as Chinatown (1974) LA Confidential (1997) and The Big Lebowski (1998), among many others.

If you’re as in the dark to what’s going on as the dimwitted detective duo, don’t worry. An opaque plot is a vital element of the genre. Other hallmarks present and correct are the voice over, a dead glamour model, a bag of cash, sinister doctors and a corporate conspiracy.

In typical style Black ramps up the action but finds his normally sharp comic dialogue is subdued by the pot headed sun kissed California vibe. Nor can he resist including an unnecessary trademark Christmas scene.

However Black’s writing has reached sufficient maturity to splice together porn movies and car adverts in a scathing commentary of both industries.

Plus a degree of satirical self knowledge is needed to write a script set in Hollywood where a character dodges bullets to save a canister of celluloid of utmost importance to solving a murder.

Heavy weight Russell Crowe teams up with a comically dim Ryan Gosling as the ironically titled leads.

As mismatched down market private detectives Healy and March, they’re employed to solve the case of a missing teenager in 1970’s Los Angeles.

Though a pair of cynical, violent alcoholics in true noir style, this is disguised by their easy screen charisma and laid back chemistry.

Kim Basinger and Margaret Qualley are strong support as a mother and daughter at the centre of the story.

Our point of view of proceedings is guided by March’s 13 year old daughter Holly. Angourie Rice is terrific as the bright, brave, street wise moral conscience of the film.

Her sweet nature proves these nice guys aren’t all bad and Black is continuing to improve.

@ChrisHunneysett

These Final Hours

Director: Zak Hilditch (2016)

With the end of the world only twelve hours away, society has descended into an orgy of sex, suicide, booze, drugs and violence.

And that’s just the first five minutes of this scorchingly apocalyptic Australian road movie.

A meteorite has caused Europe, Africa and the Americas to be engulfed in an rolling inferno, and Perth is last on the list.

Nathan Phillips is well cast as buff surfer dude James, desperately racing to a party to be with his girlfriend.

With it’s vehicle hopping, dry humour and brutal violence, this is arguably an unofficial and worthy prequel to George Miller’s magnificent Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). It offers an explanation of how society reached there from here.

The smart script by the director Hilditch offers James choices whose actions flesh out his character. Further bonus points are gained by never compromising the central premise.

Cinematographer Bonnie Elliot exploits the local light in extraordinary ways by saturating the screen in blistering red, orange and yellow.

Plaudits also to the production designer Nigel Davenport for stretching the budget and providing vehicles in a suitably searing shades of ochre.

Similarly to Max, James is defined by the relationships he has with the women in his life.

Jessica De Gouw and Kathryn Beck offer bikini clad support as James’ girlfriends Zoe and Vicky. Lynette Curran steals a scene as his mother.

En route to see Vicky, James’ rescues a young school girl from a pair of paedophiles.

Angourie Rice gives a remarkable performance as the sweet and straight talking Rose, who insists on being taken to her waiting father.

These reluctant fellow travellers offer each other the possibility of redemption as they work out what is really important in the short time they have left.