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Film / The Nice Guys

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March: Look on the bright side, nobody got hurt.
Healy: [Beat] People got hurt.
March: I'm saying they died quickly though, so I don't think they got hurt.

Yet another Film Noir-meets-Black Comedy from Shane Black, The Nice Guys is a 2016 Buddy Cop/Detective Drama flick starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

The film opens in mid-1977 Los Angeles, where Private Detective Holland March (Gosling) is a single dad to teenage Holly (Angourie Rice). He investigates an elderly woman's claims that her pornstar niece faked her death. March identifies young activist Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) as someone involved with the disappearance. Concerned, Amelia tasks enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) to get March off her back, and Healy breaks his arm for easy cash.

However, Healy and March soon make peace and try to find Amelia as a duo, especially after they are hired by a Department of Justice higher-up, Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger), to protect her. Investigating the string of deaths around Amelia uncovers something much bigger...

The film also stars Yaya DaCosta as Tally and Matt Bomer, Keith David, and Beau Knapp as hitmen.

Released on May 20th, 2016, the standard trailer can be viewed here, and red band trailer can be viewed here.

Tropes found in The Nice Guys:

  • The '70s: And boy is it ever. From the fashion, to the news on TV, the broken Hollywood sign, the long lines to fill gas, and the numerous billboards for current movies, this is more 1977 than 1977 was. The vinyl version of the soundtrack looks even more like a product of the decade.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: March develops a crush on Tally. Which he continues even after he finds out that they are on opposing sides, much to Tally's annoyance.
  • Accidental Misnaming: March repeatedly confuses Holly's friend Jessica for another girl named Janet, who Holly dislikes. It shows how little he knows about his daughter's life.
  • Accidental Murder: When Healy distracts Older Guy and Blue Face in order to reach his shotgun, Blue Face panics and starts shooting, but by doing so he accidentally fires at the window and kills a woman in the other building.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Margaret Qualley spends most of the film in a yellow dress somewhat similar to the one she wore in her Kenzo World ad. Both the film and the promotion end up putting emphasis on her legs, much like the ad.
    • March wears a white leather jacket in several scenes, much like Ryan Gosling's character in Drive (2011).
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Holly.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • March's house is littered with alcohol bottles and he carries a flask around. Various characters remark on how often and early he gets drunk. In his introductory narration, he says after his wife died he "reached for anything that came in a bottle and cost a buck-fifty." It's a big character moment when he's offered free drinks during a high-stakes mission and turns out to only be fake drunk.
    • Healy is implied to be a former alcoholic, and refuses drinks throughout the movie. In the end, March notes that he's "drinking again," suggesting that he had officially stopped prior.
  • Alcoholic Parent: March drinks on the job and gets day drunk to the point of needing his underage daughter to drive him around.
  • Anti-Hero: Healy and March are some of the most incompetent, sleaziest heroes to walk the face of the Earth, but they're both capable of genuine altruism and nowhere near as bad as the villains.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: People throughout the film are absurdly negligent with firearms, especially the folks who should know better.
  • Asshole Victim: Amelia turns out to be this. For most of the movie, you feel sympathetic for her, but the first time March and Healy have a proper conversation with her, she turns out to be bratty, entitled, rude, and insufferable (not to mention coming across as a loon as Healy puts it), even if her goal is ultimately good. She also abandons Holly with a snarky dismissal of Healy and March when the hitman shows up. She might not have deserved to be murdered, but she's not very likable either.
  • Aww Look They Really Do Love Each Other: March may not be the most present father, and Holly is frequently exasperated with him, but she still runs to hug him after her encounter with Blue Face and is visibly proud of him when he retrieves the film. He also clearly puts in an effort to be a provider, chaperoning her and several friends to the bowling alley for her birthday.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: John Boy.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Blue Face picking a few fishes from Healy's aquarium and throwing them at him is the last drop that turns him into an enemy in Healy's eyes.
  • Big Bad: Judith.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Judith's assistant Tally knows how to entertain Holly with magic tricks and seems to be really good around kids. Then she holds up Healy, March, and Holly to try to get the film, and earlier tried to send a hitman who would have no qualms about hurting children.
  • Black Comedy: How do they dispose of a rotting corpse? By blindly throwing it over a high fence, causing it to slam through a table at a wedding reception.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Compared to Black's older works. Whereas movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang preferred Gory Discretion Shots, this film shows it.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: John Boy, who at this point has shown himself to be a cold blooded killer with no scruples (he cheerfully kills Amelia, threatens to kill Holly (a young teenager), and throws Holly's friend (another young teenager) through a window. Yet, for whatever reason, he does not kill Chet after getting what he needs from him, he just leaves him beat up but alive in a dumpster. This allows Healy to learn where the porn film the villains are trying to find is.
  • Break Them by Talking: When Tally has the heroes at gunpoint, Healy tries to talk her out of it by appealing to her innocence. Then she reveals that she killed multiple times before which makes him realize there is no point in continuing with his ploy.
  • Brick Joke:
    • At one point, Healy shares a story about a man seeing Richard Nixon right before he died as a way of illustrating his point. During the Auto Show, Holland falls into a pool from the roof of the hotel and sees a vision of Nixon in the water coming for him.
    • March is constantly reading about the deadly bees, even hallucinating Bumbles. At the end of the movie, he panics in a celebratory conversation when he sees one and tries to swat it.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Except it's actually filled with worthless newspaper.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: March is actually a rather clever detective when he puts his mind to it. It's just he's so jaded he'd rather drag his feet when handling cases to maximize the amount of his payload for handling cases.
  • The Brute: Healy beats up lowlifes and/or breaks their arms for a living.
  • Car Cushion:
    • Amelia lands on top of March and Healy's car at the Airport Western Hotel.
    • During the climax, March lands on a car after a Crash in Through the Ceiling.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: A non-masturbatory example, where Healy goes after March in the bathroom stall. Leading to an extended Cringe Comedy sequence of him trying to cover himself.
  • Celibate Hero: While Healy was married in the past, he shows no interest in any of the many scantily dressed women he encounters throughout the case.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: John Boy looks a lot like the character from The Waltons, down to the mole on his cheek and the haircut.
  • Cerebus Call-Back: March's antics earlier in the film, once you realize the severity of his drinking problem.
    • The scene where Chet takes them to what's left of Dean's house for apparently no reason other than the drama, and Holland spends the entire time chewing him out for it, is a lot less funny when you know how his wife died. No wonder he gets pissy.
    • Similarly, Holland gets quietly offended when Healy snarks at his being unable to smell, and it's Played for Laughs. This is before we find out that he blames himself for the fire that killed his wife because he couldn't smell the leak.
  • Character Catchphrase: March is frequently screaming "Jesus!", high-pitched if it's in shock.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The "You will never be happy" written on March's hand. By the end, the pen is smudged, omitting the word "never".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Quite a lot of them: Misty's last words, Chett's job, the TV broadcast in the beginning (including the The Waltons announcement immediately after), Older Guy's mention of leaving town for Michigan, March's gun hidden in the jar in his kitchen, etc.
    • Hilariously subverted with Healy's ankle gun, which turns out to have only been part of a Dream Sequence.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Chet is initially just a goofy character who March and Healy question for information. Then, once it looks like the villains have gotten away with it, it's revealed that Chet has another copy of Amelia's film and is going to go ahead with showing it to the world.
  • Children Are Innocent: The film's defiance of this trope is almost a running theme; the opening scene features a young boy stealing a porno mag featuring Misty Mountains from under his parents' bed. The kid on the bike, from whom March and Healy buy information about a burned-out house, also offers to show off his penis. And Holly isn't exactly naive when it comes to issues like sex and drugs. Healy laments what he sees as a decline in general morality, but even he admits he was a "little bastard" at that age. He still makes it part of his job to prevent kids from being taken advantage of.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: The young boy in the opening scene steals a porn magazine from his father to get a look at the centerfold picture of Misty Mountains. When the real Misty appears topless in his yard after crashing her car, he covers her with his pajama top after hearing the approaching sirens.
  • Complexity Addiction: Amelia's plan to expose her mother's corruption is so needlessly convoluted it causes trouble for anyone trying to thwart it or assist with it. Amelia tries to justify the expose film being a Porn with Plot as the film's producer telling her that the fact All Men Are Perverts would ensure wide distribution, but Healy and Holland point out that it's that exact same detail that would make the audience not care about the message.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: John Boy never takes off his black gloves which adds to his creepiness.
  • Creator Thumbprint: One of the final scenes is set in a bar with Christmas decorations. Shane Black movies tend to be set during the holidays.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Holland. He may be a pathetic fuckup, but he's a lot smarter and braver than you might think.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Played straight and averted with Amelia. She's right about the Detroit cover-up scheme and her mother's involvement in it, but she is Right for the Wrong Reasons.
  • Dating Catwoman: Parodied. Holland is clearly interested in Judith's assistant Tally, who uses it to manipulate him. And he keeps doing it even after she reveals she's a bad guy, and has murdered three people, and is pointing a gun at him, and threatened his daughter.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jackson Healy. To an extent, the bike kid too.
  • Death by Cameo: Sid Shattuck's corpse has been said to be Robert Downey Jr. (one supposed crew member said the body is a puppet, not a living person).
  • Death by Falling Over: A non-lethal version with Tally slipping on the spilled coffee, falling and getting knocked out due to her head hitting the ground.
  • Death by Irony: Amelia runs away from the assassin John Boy with a snarky remark about Healy's (lack of) help, and by coincidence, she ends up running straight into John Boy, who can't believe his luck, but isn't about to pass up the opportunity. For bonus points, John Boy was only leaving because Holland and Healy held him off long enough for the cops to start coming. If she had stayed put, she would've been safe.
  • Defective Detective: March is a pretty clever investigator, but he's hampered by his alcoholism and self-loathing.
  • Destination Defenestration: Happens a few times, notably when John Boy throws one of his victims out a hotel window, Jessica when John Boy confronts her and Holly at March's house (non-fatally), and when the film is rolled out the window by Holly during the Auto Show.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Several of the protesters are wearing gas masks while pretending to be dead, leading Healy to ask why the masks didn't help them against the smog. None of them have an answer.
  • Diner Brawl: Healy's backstory includes a heroic moment in which he took out a would-be robber of a diner. He becomes somewhat of a local celebrity for it and is even dubbed the "Diner Guy".
  • Disney Villain Death: Keith David's character misses the pool that saves March by a few feet. After getting shot multiple times.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Misty and, while she insists that her work was nothing of the sort, Amelia.
  • Disposing of a Body / Wedding Smashers: By dumping it into a wedding reception.
  • The Dragon: John Boy, the villain's most prominent and lethal henchman.
  • Dream Sequence: March dreams he is in a self-driving car with a giant talking bee in the backseat. He also dreams that Healy told him about a gun he keeps at his ankle.
  • Drinking on Duty: March gets plastered while searching for Amelia at the mansion party.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Misty's dying body covered in blood is naked and posed in the exact same way she did a porn shoot.
  • Drunk Driver: March crashes a stolen car while hammered. Granted, he did so to save his daughter's life.
  • Dynamic Entry: Just as Healy and March discuss whether Amelia is dead, she lands on top of their car, runs to the front and shoots the windshield before fainting.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: After breaking March's arm, Healy grabs an apple from March's kitchen and starts eating it on his way out.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • March realizes that Amelia's note is pointing them to an apartment, not a flight. Subverted, as the apartment he thought the note was pointing them toward was demolished two years ago... and doubly subverted as Healy notes it is a hotel near the airport.
    • Later when he realizes how Mrs. Glenn saw Misty two days after her death.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In the climax, Keith David's character chews Holland out for bringing his kid to a dangerous situation, getting drunk, and being a bad parent in general.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Blue Face getting run over.
  • Family Theme Naming: March's first name is Holland, and his daughter is named Holly.
  • Fan Disservice: The gorgeous Misty Mountains, totally nude—and also cut-up, smeared with blood, and dazed, after a car wreck. A few seconds after a boy finds her, she dies.
  • Fanservice Extra: The party at the porn producer's house, which has a stripper, a painted nude woman posing as furniture, various other hot ladies in states of undress, and two topless women dressed as mermaids making out in the background of a scene again.
  • Fatal Flaw: Amelia's tendency for impulsive acts and running away nearly makes her kill two of the three people alive in LA who want to protect her. And it eventually sends her running right to the door of the guy who kills her while she was blindly trying to escape that same guy.
  • Femme Fatale: Judith is so blatantly playing the boys - down to the stereotypical Crocodile Tears and soulful, heartstring-tugging but clearly artificial facial expressions - anyone even vaguely familiar with Film Noir cliches might peg her as the bad guy. She even pulls up in the back seat of a black car and talks to the boys through a cracked window, exactly like you'd expect a crime boss to. The movie doesn't even bother to pretend for long.
  • Film Noir: Detectives fighting mob bosses and tangling with porn stars while hunting for a missing girl in mostly nighttime settings. So yeah, in spades.
  • Fingore: March accidentally steps on the fingers of someone lying down. It produces a Sickening "Crunch!" sound.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: March and Healy start out as enemies but soon team up to solve the case. By the end of the movie they have become business partners.
  • Food Slap: Holly attempts it with a pot of coffee... only it's long gone cold. But it still works, given Tally slips on the poured coffee and crashes to the ground.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In classic Shane Black fashion, the climax is foreshadowed by a TV broadcast early on.
    • After losing the fight at Shattuck's place, Older Guy says he'll go back to Michigan. This connects him to Detroit.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Convoluted as it was, Amelia's original plan would've gone off without a hitch if Misty hadn't bragged about her latest movie while visiting Detroit.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Holly has cases both dramatic (calling out her father with "Why do you have to be such a fuck-up, huh?") and comical ("I need a drink".)
  • Functional Addict: Downplayed. While March can be quite a competent detective despite his alcoholism, he needs his 14 year-old daughter to drive him around because of how often he drinks.
  • Godwin's Law: Holland March keeps comparing people to Nazis. Notably two cohorts of Judith (Tally and John Boy) use a Walther PPK and a Walther P38 respectively in the Car Show shootout, both guns being widely used by the German armed forces.
  • Good Feels Good: Both Healy and March are cynical bastards, but can't help helping people out. Healy had a moment in the recent past where he stopped a robbery at a diner and despite the bullet wound and the $500 bill (over $2,500 in 2020s money), he calls it "the best day of [his] life."
  • Grammar Correction Gag: A Running Gag of March and his daughter correcting people's use of "and stuff" at times when it's really not appropriate to do so.
    Lady: I walk in on them and they're all doing anal and stuff.
    Holly: Don't say, "and stuff." Just say, "They're doing anal."
  • Guns Akimbo: John Boy at one point dual-wields a submachine gun and a pistol.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: March, though part of it is compounded by Holly being inclined into seeking danger. As March goes to a sleazy mansion party, she sneaks her way in via the trunk of his car.
    Holly: Dad, there's like whores here and stuff!
    March: Sweetheart, how many times have I told you, don't say "And stuff". Just say "Dad, there are whores here!"
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In-universe; when one of the kids in an educational film about pool safety is described as having a "gay towel," all of the students watching crack up. The towel being rainbow-patterned doesn't precisely help.
  • He Knows Too Much: The reason why anybody connected to the movie How do you like my car, big boy? is being systematically and brutally murdered.
  • Heroic Bystander: Healy's proudest moment in life was stopping a robbery.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Match steals a red sports car in order to pursue Blue Face in the stretch limo.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Healy can give advice to his soon-to-be-victims on how to inform their doctors of their injuries, knows different types of broken bones, and reads a word-of-the-day calendar. In addition, he has to wear eyeglasses for fading eyesight and cares about his fish. When Holly offers him a Yoohoo early on, he gets an almost child-like excitement about it, and then goes on to buy a whole case for his office.
    • March, despite being a sniveling wimp, is a competent private investigator (when he's sober, which is rare). Almost highly competent. He also, despite intense cowardice, is very good in a fight. He's also a better shot than Healy.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: March compares people following protocol to Hitler on multiple occasions.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Several "fwips" from a silenced pistol are heard when John Boy shoots the businessman at the hotel and throws him out a window.
  • Homage: Holland's reaction to a corpse is straight out of Abbott and Costello.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Holly is brave, resourceful, responsible, intelligent, and quick on her feet in dangerous situations. If it weren't for her age and inexperience, she'd be better than both Healy and March combined.
  • I Know Karate: Healy has obviously some level of martial arts training. However, in a variation of the trope, his background is not informed by himself, but by a magazine in which he teaches self-defense techniques.
  • Improvised Weapon: In a flashback, Healy uses a shotgun to jackhammer a robber (who owned the aforementioned shotgun) into submission.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Said by Holly of all people.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: March tends to whimper when things start to go really south with the case, or when he's sitting next to a corpse. He uses this trait to cause one of the villains to let down his guard long enough to punch him and get his gun out at the end of the movie. He did it well enough that even his own daughter was disgusted with him.
  • Insistent Terminology: This exchange:
    Holly: Dad, there's like whores here and stuff.
    Holland: Sweetheart, how many times have I told you? Don't say "and stuff". Just say "Dad, there are whores here".
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Healy and Holly bond rather quickly once he starts working with March.
  • Iron Butt-Monkey: March. Throughout the movie, he endures and survives nearly bleeding to death from broken glass slashing his wrist, his arm getting broken, multiple gunfights, two car wrecks, and falling out of a building. Twice. At one point, he even theorizes that he must be immortal.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Amelia insists on this about the movie she worked on.
    March: So you made a porno where the plot was the point?
    Amelia: I made a statement! And yeah, yeah; my statement contained nudity!
  • It's Personal: Invoked by Healy after Blue Face starts insulting him and killing his pet fish.
  • Jerkass: Blue Face is manic, overly aggressive, and highly annoying. Even his own partner hates him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Amelia's "Tell Healy thanks for nothing" comment is fairly rude and harsh. Still, he did leave her unguarded due to trusting someone Amelia warned him was untrustworthy.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both Healy and March. Healy is a violent thug and March is a drunken oaf, but both of them at least try to do the right thing.
  • Just Following Orders: "You know who else was just following orders? Hitler!"
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Blue Face, after Healy refuses to talk and, following a misunderstanding, has a bag of blue dye explode in his face. Blue Face throws a tantrum and kills Healy's fish in response. Deconstructed, however, as Healy coldly informs him exactly why this was a big mistake:
      Healy: Stop. Think about this. When you came here tonight, is this what you wanted to happen? What, you wanted to make me eat fish? To shoot me? Look, you beat up on me, you trash the place, I get it. It's part of the job. But what did you do? You did something different. You pissed me off. You made an enemy. Now, even if I knew something, I wouldn't tell you, kid.
    • While Healy and March are engaged in a gunfight with John Boy in her defense, Amelia says "Tell Healy thanks for nothing!" before running away, making it less of a tragedy when she's almost immediately shot dead.
  • Knight of Cerebus: When Healy and March prove to be too much for Older Guy and Blueface, they decide to call John Boy, who poses a much bigger threat than both of them combined. The body count drastically goes up once he arrives on the scene, various important characters included. The comedic elements also get far less common and switch their colour.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Holland and Healy are initially terrified by John Boy, but when the latter is forced to fight him, he turns serious and manages to defeat him.
  • Little Miss Badass: Holly, who, among other things, pulls a gun on a scary assassin.
  • Little Stowaway: Holly gets to the party her father is investigating by hiding in his trunk.
  • Logo Joke: Because the film is set in 1977, instead of the current Warner Bros. "WB" logo it opens with Warners' logo sequence of the era, the Saul Bass three-bar W that transitions into the Warner Communications logo.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Amelia removes her high-heels early on to run faster and either loses or discards them offscreen, as she spends the rest of the film running around barefoot.
  • MacGuffin: Amelia's dirty movie.
  • Made of Iron: In Healy's flashback, he gets shot in the arm with a shotgun at point-blank range, and not only still has an arm, but beats his assailant to death with said shotgun.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The deaths of Dean and Misty were made to look like accidents. But as they become more pressed for time after that, the bad guys stop being subtle.
  • Malaproper:
  • Man Bites Man: During his Gun Struggle with the Older Guy in the climax, Healy bites him in the hand.
  • Matchlight Danger Revelation: When March lights his cigarette while leaning on a tree trunk, the light reveals Sid Shattuck's corpse next to him.
  • Meaningful Appearance: Judith wears white, as she's a government officer supposed to advocate for justice and purity.
  • Meaningful Background Event: As a kid sees a dirty mag in his corridor, in the background a car is running down the cliff. The very next scene has the vehicle running through the house.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: March is initially investigating a claim from Misty's aunt that Misty faked her death. It turns into investigating a string of murders, that turn out to be tied to the Department of Justice colluding with the Detroit auto industry.
  • Morality Pet: Holly, for both March and Healy.
  • More Dakka: John Boy fires so many rounds at March's house that the bullets chop down a palm tree.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • We see a nude shot of porn star Misty Mountains and a topless scene of her in a film.
    • Amelia spends most of the film running around in a yellow dress showing off her fabulous legs.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: The hitman "John Boy", which as later discussed is taken from The Waltons.
  • Never My Fault: Judith refuses to accept responsibility for her actions, including her role in her daughter's death, claiming that Amelia was killed by Detroit, and that she tried to save her. March points out the ridiculousness of blaming everyone in Detroit for this. Additionally, Judith was the one who sent the John Boy to kill Amelia.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailer makes it look like Healy and March crash through Bobby's house comedically after March hallucinates the giant killer bee. In the film, the car that crashes through the house is Misty's after she is murdered.
    • The trailer also plays up the mob's role far more than is actually in the film.
    • The trailer really plays up Blueface as the main bad guy, with very few appearances from John Boy.
  • No Name Given: The two men who are looking for Amelia. One is named in the credits as Blue Face after he gets his face splattered with ink, presumably from a stolen bag of money that won't wash off, and the other is simply labeled Older Guy.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: March is introduced sitting fully clothed in a filled bathtub.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: After escaping or being saved from death multiple times throughout the movie, Amelia is unceremoniously killed by John Boy.
  • Odd Couple:
    • Somewhat obvious between older, roughshod enforcer Healy and younger, more panicky PI March.
    • Also Blue Face and Older Guy. It's obvious in their first scene that Older Guy is sick of Blue Face's antics and manic nature.
  • Offing the Offspring: Indirectly. Amelia is murdered by John Boy, one of the hitmen hired by her own mother Judith.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Holly, when she realizes that the "doctor" that came to check on Amelia is really John Boy.
    • Healy when he slams John Boy to the floor during their fight and realizes he pulled the pin off a grenade.
  • One-Man Army: John Boy fights his way through security in the climax, along with both Healy and March. He only loses in his fight against Healy due to some lucky strikes from the latter that catch him off guard.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Holland might be a screw-up, but he'll become dangerously competent when Holly is threatened.
    • Healy is also fiercely protective over Holly, beating a man up who he thought was showing Holly porn.
  • Photo Identification Denial: Jackson and Holland show Amelia's picture to a bartender, who denies ever seeing her. Both Jackson and Holland can see that he's lying, and after getting his head bashed against the bar he admits that he's seen her. Interestingly, he's not a bad person. Despite getting roughed up, after he tells them how to find people who know Amelia where is, he specifically warns them that they're dangerous and not to be taken lightly.
  • Pinky Swear: Holly makes her father swear via a pinky swear that he'll retrieve the film from the baddies.
  • Playing Drunk: March, during the Rooftop Confrontation at the finale. He's so convincing his own daughter buys it.
  • Plot Armor: Lampshaded. March manages so many close escapes and survives so many calamities that, toward the end of the film, he exclaims, "I don't think I can die!"
  • Pocket Protector: The film case saves March from one of John Boy's bullets.
  • Porn with Plot: In-Universe. Amelia made an expose of her mother's criminal deeds because she believed there was no other way to get the message out. Her producer, Sid, insisted that there be porn in it as "the commercial element."
    Holland: So you're telling me you made a porno where the plot is the point?
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: This exchange with the barman at the Airport Western Hotel:
    Bartender: What's in for me?
    March: [points to Healy] He'll stop doing it.
    Bartender: Doing what?
    [Healy suddenly smacks the bartender's head off the bartop]
    Bartender: Ah! Fuck!
    March: That.
  • The President's Daughter: One of the cases involves a Department of Justice higher-up wanting her daughter found, presumably because Police Are Useless and because she believes there's mob ties. Never Trust a Trailer. Judith's motives for finding Amelia are far from noble, and have nothing to do with the mob.
  • Private Detective: March is a licensed private detective. He even mentions how the introduction of no-fault divorces in California had a devastating effect on his line of work. Healy becomes one following his thug for hire beginnings.
  • Professional Killer: John Boy. Older Guy and Blue Face too, but they are not the One-Man Army that John Boy is.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: The only jobs we see Healy take as a thug-for-hire is keeping predators away from women. He's only in it for the money, though, and doesn't hesitate to point out when Amelia is $7 short. Holland doesn't even rise to this level.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Older Guy is a ruthless multiple murderer, but he seems to view Healy with the respect of a fellow professional and shows brief exasperation toward his Trigger-Happy partner. He also lectures March for bringing his daughter to a dangerous confrontation and for crying pathetically in front of Holly.
  • Ransom Drop: Exploited. Tally tasks March and Healy with delivering money for a ransom exchange. Unknown to March and Healy, the money is fake and the mission is a trap set up by Tally.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending:
    • Amelia is killed and the catalytic collusion conspiracy is dropped despite exposure due to a lack of evidence. However, Judith and her cronies are arrested and March and Healy work together as closer partners.
    • March invokes this on a more meta note at the end. He believes that although the conspiracy against the car companies was dropped, we'll all be driving electric cars within 5 years. Come 2016 when the movie was released, and we're still driving fossil fuel powered cars that are a threat to birds and bees, but fossil fuel technology has greatly become cleaner over the decades and the environmental movement has made some gains. Alternative energy and electric cars are being more widely adopted. So we might be getting where March suggested, but at a much slower rate than he predicted.
    • Judith's line that "Detroit can't be stopped" rings hollow in the wake of the city's huge economic downturn and the relative fall of many American car companies who famously had to ask the government for subsidies and straight out money to help with their debts in modern times. Most notably, the bailouts of Chrysler just 2-3 years after the film's setting, and GM in 2009.
    • And March might play it off as a positive, but Healy drinking again isn't presented in a flattering light at all. That being said, March himself seems to have cut back, since he's shown driving himself to the bar in the first place.
  • Recoiled Across the Room: When Healy and March are trying to escape the hotel after seeing John Boy's handiwork, Amelia shows up on the hood of the car and shoots a gun in their direction. The recoil blows her off the car.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: March and Healy respectively. March tends to be quicker at jumping to conclusions and easier to be angered in dealing with things, he speaks louder and gets quite easily agitated. While Healy can be more professional and methodical when dealing with things regardless of the violence he commits during the task as an enforcer, he speaks softly and calmly. It is matched by the color of their shirts respectively.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Between March and Keith David's character at the climax.
  • Rule of Pool: Many people are pushed into the pool while posing as a Mobstacle Course to March at the mansion party and there's even a classic fall from the roof into a pool.
  • Running Gag:
    • Holland falling from buildings and surviving.
    • Holland fumbling and/or dropping his gun right when he needs it the most.
    • "Don't say 'and stuff.'"
  • Scary Black Man: Keith David as one of the enforcers. Judith's assistant Tally is a female type.
  • Schmuck Bait: Blue Face got his name when he open a sack of banknotes with a dye pack, despite Healy warning him.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: March, almost to the point of Running Gag. Although it's understandable the first time, after having his arm snapped.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • March and Healy immediately and quietly retreat once they get a glimpse of John Boy single-handedly slaughtering everyone in the hotel penthouse.
    • The only reason Amelia manages to survive as long as she does is because of her tendency to do this. It backfires on her the last time she tries, when she runs straight into John Boy.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: March has no sense of smell, which led to him burning his house down when he couldn't smell a gas leak.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Amelia is killed, and even though the catalytic converter conspiracy is revealed, they get away with it anyways (although presumably John Boy is arrested for murder). However, the experience brings Healy and March together as partners and seems to improve their self-worth.
  • Shear Menace: Tally throws a pair of scissors at Holly but the latter dodges the attack.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: March is stunned when he sees Tally in a hot pink dress with her hair styled in an afro. He's even distracted enough to forget she's pointing a gun at him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene where March stumbles across the dead body and starts stuttering and gesturing towards it while trying to call out to Healy is a clear reference to Abbott and Costello.
    • At one point an advertising billboard for Jaws 2 is shown.
    • Amelia's yellow dress is somewhat similar to the one the actress wore in a viral Kenzo World ad, especially the part where it shows off her legs. Albeit with less dancing.
    • March lives near The Comedy Store, and we see its billboard promoting stand-up comedians of the time, including a young Tim Allen.
    • John Boy's name and appearance reference the character from The Waltons, which is mentioned several times in the film.
    • The film style of Quentin Tarantino is given several nods, most notably in the drawn-out dialogues, the signature trunk scene and the shots of Amelia's bare feet.
  • Sickbed Slaying: John Boy attempts this when posing as a doctor who would like to examine Amelia at March's place. Holly catches on to the act and holds him at gunpoint until March and Healy return.
  • Slashed Throat: Happens to one of John Boy's victims at the hotel.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: This is Shane Black, so of course.
    Healy: Mr March, we're gonna play a game. [...] It's called "shut up unless you're me."
    March: I love that game.
  • Snipe Hunt: Tally sends March and Healy on a false Ransom Drop mission with fake money in order to get them out of the way.
  • Soft Glass: Averted and invoked: March tries to smash a pane to open a door and manages to slash his wrist severely; played straight later when he falls through a skylight without injury. Also played straight with Holly's friend Jessica, who John Boy throws through a window. While she's initially knocked unconscious, she later wakes up relatively fine.
  • Soft Water: Subverted. March takes a multi-story fall into a swimming pool, and while he walks away without injury, he briefly got knocked out and starts hallucinating.
  • Speaking Simlish: The German-sounding nonsense that March speaks at the courthouse lobby towards the end.
  • Spiritual Successor: The film shares quite a bit with Shane Black's previous film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang:
    • The protagonists are an Odd Couple working as private detectives. One is an aloof badass, while the other is a screw-up who is constantly getting injured.
    • They have a girl sidekick who is attached to the screw-up.
    • They piece together an overly convoluted plot.
    • There are two mysteries being investigated that appear to be unrelated (in this case, the murder of Misty and the disappearance of Amelia) but eventually turn out to be connected.
    • They're chasing a not-so-innocent Damsel in Distress, which is complicated by a case of mistaken identity.
    • The damsel dies partway through the film.
    • They find a corpse of a murder victim and have to hide it in order to avoid being accused of murder, then lose a gun in the process.
    • Set in Los Angeles, with poolside parties making a prominent appearance.
    • It's revealed near the end that one of the female victims they'd been investigating had her death ordered by one of her own parents.
    • Chet is played by Jack Kilmer, son of Val Kilmer who was one of the leads in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
  • Spit Take: When Healy's wife tells him she's been having sex with his father in a flashback.
  • Stout Strength: Healy is on the stockier side, but is very strong and hits like a truck. (Especially when using his brass knuckles.)
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Healy is the callous old veteran doing his job. March is the bumbling oaf running on luck and often throwing up or screaming.
  • Stress Vomit: Happens to both March and Healy after discovering Sid Shattuck's corpse.
    Healy: Alright, we have a plan. We'll throw up, we'll get rid of the body.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • March wraps his hand in cloth to punch through a window. This doesn't keep the glass from cutting his wrist open immediately and sending him to the hospital. note 
    • Holly attempts to distract Tally by throwing a pot of coffee in her face. A pot of coffee she found on a tray outside and had gotten cold.
    • When March is in pursuit of Blue Face, he loses control of his stolen car and crashes it into a tree trunk due to his drunken state.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Older Guy's reaction to Blue Face antagonizing Healy it to just eye-roll and then groan when his antics continue.
  • Taking You with Me: When March shoots Older Guy, the latter attempts to drag Holly with him as he falls off the balcony, prompting March to tackle Older Guy over the railing.
  • Teaser-Only Character: Misty Mountains. She is a Posthumous Character in a way, even if her character is minor.
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: In the end, Judith confidently states that nothing will ever bring down Detroit. March also asserts that electric cars will be the norm in five years' time.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Holly believes in this wholeheartedly. She tries to help Blue Face after he gets run over, despite him having done nothing but try to kill her and Amelia, and when Blue Face does get killed, by Healy, she inadvertently guilt-trips him. Later, she gets the drop on John Boy and has him dead to rights with a revolver, but is unable to pull the trigger. She also talks Healy out of killing John Boy by threatening never to speak to him again. She seems to have a lot less scruples when it comes to broken bones, though.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Amelia flees March's house during the shootout with John Boy, and minutes later flags down a passing car to ask for help. John Boy's car, to be specific. She takes a bullet to the heart for her trouble. To make it even worse, she hides from a passing police car, since she doesn't trust the authorities... only to run right into the actual threat's path. Even John Boy, who's usually the picture of professional cool, is rather amused by the turn of events.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • If you remember the color of his suit from the trailer, it's fairly easy to guess how Keith David's character is going to die.
    • You may also remember Kuttner's assistant holding them at gunpoint; "You're not a murderer!".
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Holly, E.g. when she is holding John Boy at gunpoint without batting an eye, and when she asks Healy to beat up a friend of hers.
  • Two-Faced: Blue Face gets his nickname after he, against Healy's warnings, opens a bag that splatters permanent security ink on the right side of his face. When he's dying, the right side of his face is now smeared with his own blood.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: There's Amelia the missing girl, and a porn star showing up dead. Naturally, this will be up in the air as to their relevancy as is common in detective fiction.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Healy and March take an outside glass elevator up to a penthouse where they think some bad guys are. The elevator doors open, they look left, and they see a man choking to death on his own blood. They look right, and they hear gunshots and see a man reeling backwards as the bullets hit him. They close the doors and go back down, a ride that is made even more uncomfortable when a body falls past them.
  • Vanity License Plate: The license plate for Misty Mountains blue 1977 Pontiac Firebird Sky Bird reads "MISTY M".
  • Visual Pun: In the bathroom stall scene, March covers his parts with Tricky Dick (who's in the cover of the magazine he was reading),
  • Weapon Stomp: During their initial confrontation, Healy kicks March's gun away when the latter tries to reach it by crawling across the floor.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The last we see of Chet is him lying injured in a trash bin and relaying information. He is no longer heard from during the ensuing gunfight.
  • Working the Same Case: Misty Mountain's death and the disappearance of Amelia are related.
  • World of Snark: It's a Shane Black script, so of course just about half the dialogue is cruel zingers.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Healy would if you're willing to pay, but John Boy will do it if they're even in the building while he's there.
  • Wretched Hive: Shane Black had originally written the movie in the present, but 1970s Los Angeles was a massive one of those and this made for a more interesting setting.


Video Example(s):


March is in a tight spot

How do you safely approach someone who hates you because you broke their arm? You wait until they're at their most vulnerable.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / CaughtWithYourPantsDown

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