Hammerle On… 'The Nice Guys,' 'Money Monster'

June 1, 2016

“The Nice Guys”

While my good friend and occasional movie companion referred to in my rating may be the best hand surgeon in the United States, by his own admission he is far too caustic to review films. On the other hand, even if his criticism was a bit harsh, it really didn’t matter.

rating-nice.jpgUnfortunately, “The Nice Guys” is one of those films where the audience discovers that it has been misled by the previews. More to the point, if you’ve had a chance to see one of those trailers, you need to know that they encompass the only really funny scenes in the entire film.

To the extent that it matters, I don’t want this critique to be aimed at either Russell Crowe or Ryan Gosling, as both are great actors. Here, however, they are trapped in a convoluted plot that never becomes clear until the film’s ending, and by then you’ve reached the point where you really don’t care.

Gosling plays Holland March, a drunken private investigator who does little more than embarrass his 12-year-old daughter, Holly. After a local enforcer played by an overweight Russell Crowe pummels him in his own home, the two end up becoming partners in a quest to determine why so many people are being killed.

Kim Basinger makes a brief appearance as Judith Kuttner, a government agent seeking our boys’ assistance. The only thing that really saves her performance is her facelift.

There are a lot of people who die viciously throughout the film. Among the villains wreaking havoc are John Boy (Matt Bomer) and Blue Face (Beau Knapp), and their incompetence is the only thing that allows our duo to survive.

The title of the film is also misleading. Director/co-writer Shane Black has given us a collection of profound idiots whose maudlin personalities are limited to an occasional sense of humor.

To give you an idea of just how boring this movie becomes, consider that our boys join several villains in continually falling off ledges of high rise buildings. March’s participation in these pratfalls leaves you shaking your head in disbelief.

Let me sum up this cinematic mess by noting that the only really solid performance comes from Angourie Rice, here playing March’s young daughter. She is the only smart, sensitive person in the entire film, and she functions as her father’s guardian angel by constantly appearing to save him from destruction.

I entered the theater with some modest expectations. As the film unraveled, I kept hoping that Crowe and Gosling would use their talents to bring some sense to the whole experience. Unfortunately, their only hope is that “entertainment” is now defined as engulfing a viewing audience in repetitive, tedious boredom.

“Money Monster”

Despite the great deal of attention paid to stars George Clooney, Julia Roberts and director Jodie Foster, “Money Monster” stands on its own merit as a very entertaining film. While it doesn’t dance in the same acclaimed category as last year’s Oscar nominated “The Big Short,” Ms. Foster focuses her camera on the blue-collar people who are left struggling in a ginned-up free market system where politicians don’t seem to really care.

rating-money-monster.jpgHere, Clooney plays flamboyant TV host Lee Gates, who uses his entertaining form of propaganda to sell stocks, bonds and other securities. In a performance that should not be overlooked, Julia Roberts shines as Patty Fenn, Gates’ producer, though they are seldom on screen together. She is the one person in the entire film with a bit of common sense.

The film wraps itself around a plot where a stranger suddenly appears on camera and puts a gun to Gates’ head. Forcing Gates to wear a vest filled with explosives, he demands an explanation on how Gates could advocate an investment where little people like himself lost a family inheritance.

Jack O’Connell will grab your heart playing Kyle Budwell, an angry young man who only seeks answers. He gives a powerful performance, and I can only remind you of his tremendous roles in both “‘71” (2014) and the fact that he made Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” (2014) watchable.

In the film itself, the fact that everyone’s life is in danger is not helped by the arrival of the New York Police Department. Nobody knows who to shoot to solve the problem, and in the process Gates morphs from an arrogant jerk into a sympathetic soul who suddenly believes that the haunted Mr. Budwell deserves some honest answers.

The strength of this film flows from the fact that it focuses on an immense problem in our country, namely that the very wealthy control a society where income inequality grows to a staggering level. You don’t have to read the fantastic book by Jane Mayer, “Dark Money,” to understand how we Americans are being exploited by billionaires protecting their fortunes.

In “Money Monster,” you see a TV personality making a living at the expense of the little guy. That is what makes this film so rewarding. Corporate executives are held accountable, and I loved this movie from beginning to end.

This is an adult film for adult people, and it is a credit to both Clooney and Roberts that they agreed to be its co-stars. Foster’s movie indirectly challenges billionaire fat-cats who hide behind special interest groups that advocate for “limited government.” Without apologies, “Money Monster” provides a subtle vehicle to question any politician who screams against raising taxes on the wealthy while ignoring raising the minimum wage.•

? Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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