In today’s society, advertisements are everywhere. Whether it’s in the nonstop commercials on TV, the slew of billboards on every street corner, or even in movies shown worldwide. These advertisements can either be very obvious or they can be subtle enough to where the viewer does not even notice the product there. This is the fine line that movie producers must make, for product placement allows for people to better relate to films. However, if these are made too obvious, they can take away from the scene and create an unwanted tacky tone. One movie that is able to walk this tightrope of advertisements is The Nice Guys.
Starring Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling, The Nice Guys tells the comedic tale of a private detective and a muscle-for-hire strong man trying to track down a missing girl. Their journey leads them through the sex and smog filled streets of Los Angeles in 1977, trying to secure a porno that could bring down the Detroit Auto Industry. Throughout the film, there are many products shown, but they are almost never directly mentioned by any of the characters. Instead, the products are used more to establish the time and location in which the film is supposed to take place. By doing this, the film is able to remain true to their plot, pleasing sponsors, as well as giving the audience examples that further show what time this film is taking place.
One example of this is through the heavy use of smoking and drinking throughout the film. Due to the rough nature of characters, cigarettes and booze flow freely during the story. Ryan Gosling’s character, Holland March, is a heavy drinker and smoker. While most of the time he is drinking bourbon out of a glass, he occasionally will drink from a labeled container. These included Budweiser, Miller High Life, and Jack Daniels. While these products are shown briefly, they are never mentioned. In order to establish the time period, all of these labels and containers are using the same packaging that was used throughout the 1970s. One interesting fact about this film is that while almost every character smokes, none of them show a name brand carton of cigarettes. This could be due to moral restrictions that the film placed on itself in order to not allow for large tobacco companies to gain advertising in their film. Because many people are opposed to the tobacco companies using films as a way to find a loophole in the laws advertising as Martin Smith states in his article, the filmmakers may have wanted to avoid this issue by not allowing the tobacco companies to advertise their products.
The only time that a specific product was directly mentioned by one of the characters was when Healy (Russel Crowe) is offered a Yoo-hoo by March’s daughter. When he drinks it, the label is directly shown towards the camera, giving the audience a full look at the logo. In the very next scene, Healy is seen carrying a huge pack of glass Yoo-hoo bottles up the stairs to his apartment, again with the label clearly displayed towards the camera. A scuffle ensues with two men who attack Healy, and when he falls down, the case of Yoo-hoos shatter on the ground, once again displaying the logo. While this is the only time in the film in which a product is directly showcased, the director is able to display this product without making it seem too obvious. Shane Black, the director, uses this scene in order to show Healy’s softer side when dealing with March’s daughter, a relationship that is built upon later in the film. If used anywhere else in the film, the mention of Yoo-hoos would have felt out of place, yet when placed in this scene, Black was able to blend it in with the original purpose of the scene.
The Nice Guys is an utterly hilarious film that is also able to combine a unique and original story line. The use of product placement throughout the film allows viewers to better understand the time and place in which the movie is set while not making the advertisements too obvious. Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe display unmatched chemistry throughout the film and enhance the comedic elements during its entirety. I give this film 5 stars for its originality, humor, and ability to display products without being painfully obvious.