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Soundtrack Review: #TheNiceGuys Score

The Nice Guys - Original Motion Picture Score takes us back to 70s porn and 80's action style.

Review by Matt Cummings

If you haven't seen the Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling 70s PI comedy The Nice Guys, stop reading this review and take your best friend to see this film. Afterwards, read our review (which you can see HERE), and then check out our thoughts below on Composer John Ottman and David Buckley's excellent score. The release by Lakeshore Records is a mix of 70's porn and 80's action style that's sure to find an immediate place of worship in your music library.

Los Angeles PI's Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) are not exactly the perfect Dynamic Duo for 1977. The bruiser Healy has been sent to beat up March, who is looking for a missing porn star. But as the two 'meet' with Healy getting the better (broken) hand, the two realize that they're being set up by shadowy and powerful forces. It's revealed that a porno may contain important details of collusion between Detroit's auto companies, and so all those involved are quickly being snuffed out. Holland's daughter Holly (Angourine Rice) soon gets involved as the mysterious porn star finally arises, creating trouble for Holland and a reason to do right by Jackson. As the truth behind these murders is revealed, the two form an unlikely partnership, shooting their way through drug-fueled sex parties, porno plots, corporate shindigs, and attempted assassinations.

Ottman and Buckley take us through a variety of terrific period pieces, establishing the mood right away with Theme from The Nice Guys. It's a throwback to James Bond, The Streets of San Francisco, and even the more-recent Penguins of Madagascar. The score then takes us through tracks that are both playful (Kids Today and Pornocchio), more hard-boiled fare (Disco Party Fight), and even more dramatic (A Little Favor). I like how our team isn't afraid to use different tools like a tympani to push certain parts of the tracks. You don't hear it for long, but it reminds me of its use in the 70's with Battle of Planets and other television scores.

What becomes very clear as we descend deeper into this score is that Ottman and Buckley really have a sense for what Director Shane Black was envisioning with The Nice Guys as a film, as the playfulness of the opening theme resonates through several tracks like You Got Her - Easy 20 and others. I love their use of trumpets in Equanimity and others, creating a film noir mood like you'd see in Bosch. But there's also some terrific modern pieces like Chet in the Dumps, with its use of electronic sampling as the backbone for early goings on.

I've loved the diversity of music Ottman has produced over the years, from Valkyrie to The Usual Suspects, even if he hasn't made a lot of scores. But his work always puts him right in the mix with those journeymen composers. Take the two tracks Meeting John Boy and It's Not a Fight, showcasing his use of drum kits, trumpets, and even a stand-up bass. But let's not forget that Ottman's got a buddy here in David Buckley, who's no slouch either. His upcoming work on the fifth Jason Bourne movie should produce nice results, but he's also made music for two of my favorites, CBS' The Good Wife and Ben Affleck's The Town. Although it's their first collaboration, The Nice Guys feels like they've been working together for years.

One of my favorite tracks is the 17th PI Life, which takes us back to that 70's sound, taking us back to the days of Black Dynamite with the silky smooth cool. But there's such a rich outlay of music here that anyone who enjoyed Tango and Cash, Lethal Weapon, and other buddy cop action flicks is sure to appreciate something here. And the film is clearly one of the best comedies around, elevated (of course) by this stellar score. But don't confuse this with The Nice Guys SOUNDTRACK, which is merely a collection of 70s rock pieces that play in the background.

The Nice Guys - Original Motion Picture Score is too chic for most of us, and that's why I love it. The selections are abashedly unafraid to tell their story of Healy and March, never settling on set-up tracks and gifting us with a throwback sound that's immediately a comfort to our ears. Ottman is becoming a force in 2016, having sported two of the best scores of the year (see our review for X-men: Apocalypse), and Buckley's collaboration might be the best of the year. And while the film (sadly) has quickly faded, I know it and this score will remain in people's minds, with fans realizing that part of Healy and March's charm lies in the music which these two incredible musicians have crafted.

The Nice Guys is in theaters now, with the digital score now available and the CD arriving June 24, 2016.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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