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Writer/director Shane Black knows a thing or two about detective stories. His career started back in the 1980s when he sold the script for the original Lethal Weapon, and in the years since he’s delivered spell-binding and hilarious capers in The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and more. His latest entry into the beloved genre is the upcoming period crime dramedy The Nice Guys - and with it, the filmmaker had one very important goal in mind: he wanted the mystery to really matter again.
All the way back in February of last year, a small group of journalists including myself were invited to go to Echo Park in Los Angeles and both visit the set of The Nice Guys while it was in production, and speak with the movie’s filmmakers and stars. It was during our sit-down with Shane Black that the writer/director explained how the mystery plots have gotten weaker in modern detective stories, with much larger focus being put on the idiosyncratic characters instead. This was part of the reason why he ultimately wanted to make The Nice Guys, to have the opportunity to emphasize the actual case. Said Black,
It used to be in the classic detective story that the mystery was the star and what they encountered and the feel and the tone, and the unveiling of things. And then there came this point, like ‘90s, maybe the ‘80s, where it became all about the quirks of the detective. They have a parrot, they have an evil landlord, and they date this guy, and they drive a Volkswagen bug. All of a sudden, it’s all about the quirky detective and they lost the mystery.
In The Nice Guys, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as a private eye Holland March and muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy, respectively, and we follow them as they investigate what appears on the surface to be suicide of a young porn star. Knowing the work of Shane Black, the film will have some great buddy comedy aspects to it, and will be as funny as it is thrilling, but it’s exciting to know that we as movie-goers can expect to see a real mystery unfold that has us guessing every step of the way.
Going further, Shane Black also identified the kind of tonal and story approach that he wanted to take with The Nice Guys. He specifically cited influential authors on his work on the new movie - Ross Macdonald, Richard Prather and Brett Halliday – but went further explaining that there is a wide world of great mysteries, and that those stories could be spun into cinematic gold. Black explained,
So, to me, the classic private eye, which culminates with Ross Macdonald, but then got this zany dimension in the ‘60s, which is what I’m trying to evoke here: the caper. There’s not a lot of people doing real private eye capers, and I recommend Richard Prather who no one ever remembers anymore, or Brett Halliday. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was loosely based on a plot point from one of his books. So, there’s an infinite well to draw from if you know where to look. Most people don’t. Most people have forgotten these guys.
The Nice Guys will be in theaters on May 20th, and be sure to stay tuned for more of our set visit coverage of the film!