Movie reviews: The Nice Guys, Me Before You, Warcraft: The Beginning

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys 3/5
Me Before You 3/5
Warcraft: The Beginning 3/5

The Nice Guys (15) are Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a private eye and muscle-man enforcer, respectively, operating in 1970s Los Angeles. 

Commissioned to find a missing teenager, Amelia (Margaret Qualley), the hapless duo soon find themselves mixed up in the apparent suicide of a porn star, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), and wide-ranging corruption orchestrated by Amelia’s mother, the district attorney Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger).

Written and directed by Shane Black, it’s a mismatched buddies comedy influenced by 1970s neo-noir such as Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, in which the private eye stumbles around unable to lace his own shoes, let alone solve a case.

Heavily moustached and stubbled, March is the antithesis of the noble private investigator, a greedy con-man so useless even his young daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), despairs. 

Healy (equally hirsute) is the more principled of the two, his cynicism and propensity for violence notwithstanding. 

Black trades heavily on nostalgia here, the pair’s relentless bickering (which, you won’t be surprised to learn, eventually gives way to a belated and grudging mutual respect) recalling Black’s scriptwriting debut, Lethal Weapon, but while Crowe and Gosling obviously enjoy one another’s company, the movie lacks the killer comic touch that might release it from the genre’s conventions.

The humour feels strained, with set-ups that are a little too long and pay-offs nowhere as sharply delivered as they need to be. 

Gosling and Crowe are charismatic enough to make for a pleasant two hours, but the longer it runs the more it comes to feel like a comedy sketch spoof that has spiralled out of control.

Adapted by Jojo Moyes from her bestselling novel, Me Before You (12A) opens with Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) taking a position as carer for Will Traynor (Sam Clafin), a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair after suffering catastrophic injuries in a traffic accident. 

A bright and bubbly personality, Lou is initially intimidated by Will’s wealth and a depth of despair that makes him both insufferably rude and virtually impossible to like.

Soon, however, Lou’s idiosyncrasies begin to thaw Will’s frigid demeanour, and the pair become close — until Lou discovers the harrowing truth of Will’s intentions. 

Directed by Thea Sharrock, Me Before You is something of a contemporary take on the Beauty and the Beast fable, particularly in the early stages when the vivacious Lou civilises the sullen, snarling Will, charming him from the hi-tech lair where he has been hiding from the world.

They make for a likeable pairing, even if Clarke is burdened with a role that demands a rather implausible quality of self-sacrifice — Lou is so indefatigably cheerful that it eventually grows irritating — while Clafin does a fine job of subtly persuading us that Will’s tragedy is not his physical impairment but the emotional cage he has consciously decided to build around him. 

It’s a solid and affecting romantic drama, although one that — despite the unconventional set-up — grows increasingly conventional once the characters are established.

Warcraft: The Beginning (12A), adapted from the best-selling video game, is a fantasy adventure set in a primitive Earth-like society featuring orcs, dwarves, elves and magic. 

If you’re thinking Lord of the Rings you won’t go too far wrong: the story opens with a war party of orcs, among them the chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell), flooding through a portal to invade the idyllic, shire-like Azeroth. 

Standing in their way are King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), his faithful queen Lady Taria (Ruth Negga) and his trusty commander, Lothar (Travis Fimmel), but Duncan Jones (who co-adapts and directs) offers a slightly more complex tale than a straightforward battle between good and evil.

Durotan — recently a father — is a more nuanced character than we might expect from a hulking monster, and the story is as concerned with the internal tensions between the ranks of the marauding hordes as it is with their inevitable showdown with the indigenous population (there’s also a strong sub-plot exploring how instinctive enemies might learn to profitably co-exist).

That said, the emphasis is very much on the visual impact of the characters and their various conflicts, and while battle scenes are given the expected epic treatment, the CGI doesn’t always deliver the quality we have come to expect. 

Nevertheless, ‘Warcraft’ is nowhere as poor as early reviews have led us to believe; it may not be the next Lord of the Rings, but fans of sword-and-sorcery tales will find plenty to enjoy here.


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