THE NICE GUYS
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Murielle Telio, Ty Simpkins
Porn and Ryan Gosling. No, it’s not that kind of movie. The year is 1977 and the porn scene in Los Angeles is just as hot as ever. It’s no secret that young boys have a tendency to sneak nudie magazines from underneath their parents’ bed. What you don’t expect is to come face to face with the centerfold model. That very thing happens to a young boy (Simpkins) when a car comes crashing through his house. He goes to investigate the crash and finds Misty Mountains (Telio) sprawled out dead and in the same position as he just found her in the magazine. The death of Misty Mountains is just a small part of the investigation at hand. Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a private eye who’s a bit clumsy and thinks he has his act together. In all reality, he usually comes up a few pieces short of the full puzzle. He’s hired to find a missing girl by the name of Amelia Kuttner (Qualley) and the details of her disappearance are slim. He is also hired by Misty’s aunt who believes she saw her niece alive shortly after her supposed death. Joining him in the search is detective Jackson Healy (Crowe) who is known as the “real life tough guy” according to a magazine cover. He’s the no-nonsense type with his brass knuckles ready to lay down the law. It’s a stark contrast to Holland’s way of getting to the bottom of the situation. The character of Amelia is kept a mystery, but it’s a forgone conclusion that she’s somehow involved in the porn scene when a variety of Misty’s coworkers keep popping up dead. The Holland/Jackson duo later becomes a trio when Holland’s daughter Holly (Rice) tags along for the ride. She becomes the smart, logical one of the group despite her young age.
The brain behind this operation belongs to writer/director Shane Black. His credits all align within the action and comedy realm having directed the noir hit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and Iron Man 3 (2013) as well as writing the scripts for the first three Lethal Weapon films. He’s also had a few other less-than-stellar titles in the mix like Last Action Hero (1993) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). His career really took a sharp turn for the better when he was able to direct his own scripts. I haven’t fully studied his career, but it’s evident with The Nice Guys that he has such a distinct vision with his writing that it could easily veer in the wrong direction with an incapable director.
It has the perfect balance of comedy and action working in tandem with each other. The genre blend of these two has been growing lately with the likes of 21 Jump Street, Tropic Thunder, and Keanu. The comedy in those film gears toward lowbrow and easier laughs with the central characters caught in situations beyond their control. I’m not trying to shame or lessen their laugh factors, but point out how different The Nice Guys is with the balance. It’s just as much an action film as it is a comedy. Black knows how to meticulously choreograph action scenes to play them like physical comedy gags without them feeling hokey. Some you can envision being storyboarded while others play on the comedy rule of three. This has very dark and witty material for which the tone may not appeal to everyone. At one point Gosling states, “You made a porno film where the point was the plot.” I can just imagine half the audience leaving the theater claiming they just don’t “get it”, while the other half leaves with a devilish grin on their face.
Gosling and Crowe make for a sharp team together. I would never have expected Russell Crowe to star in one of the funniest movies of the year. This is probably the loosest we’ve seen him on screen, even with him playing the tough guy. It’s by far his best performance in many years. Gosling gets to be erratic and goofy. He’s not the smartest private eye, which helps with the comedy. He’s also great at playing hot head characters who are out of control. Kim Basinger arrives in the second half as Amelia’s mother. She and Crowe get to have a nice little L.A. Confidential reunion despite her limited screen time. Matt Bomer eventually pops up and plays against type as a shady character named John Boy.
The 1970s time period provides for groovy costumes, bad wigs, wild parties, and nutty characters along the way. I had said grin on my face the entire time as I got a kick out of the ridiculous nature of it all. It’s twisted, but oh so much fun. The two leads are genuinely having a great time with their characters, and in turn makes it all the easier to go along on their buddy cop routine. While I’m not necessarily wishing for a sequel, I wouldn’t rule it out either, as there is potential for more fun and mishaps to be had with these characters.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Crowe and Gosling, oddly enough, make for a great comedic duo.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS