The Nice Guys, 2016.
Directed by Shane Black.
Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Lois Smith, Murielle Telio, Jack Kilmer, and Kim Basinger.
A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.
Anyone that managed to watch the Academy Awards this year also saw Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling present an award at the festivities, and subsequently definitely had a hunch that director Shane Black (Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was onto something with The Nice Guys. Let’s face it, most of the comedy at prestigious awards shows is flat-out terrible (mostly due to whoever writes the crap not wanting to piss off any of the celebrities attending), but these two hit it out of the park even with cheesy lines, showing great comedic chemistry together; they riff off of each other well, can be condescending to one another, and ooze charisma, so pretty much at that moment, hype for The Nice Guys became a reality.
And boy does the nutty, madcap violent detective thriller comedy ever deliver. For how bloody the movie actually is, it is wonderfully counterbalanced with a general ‘no fucks given’ approach in regards to how over-the-top and silly the shenanigans that unfold are. It’s a movie where the duo attend a party celebrating various personas in the adult film industry (on their path to solve a missing persons case), that casually has a quick scene of Ryan Gosling chasing and swimming after naked mermaids in an aquarium. Somehow, the actual plot behind everything going on in the case is actually even more zany and bizarre, needing to be seen to be believed.
Additionally, studios just don’t pump out movies like The Nice Guys anymore. Director Shane Black also wrote Lethal Weapon, so it’s not surprising that he is excelling here once again at what he does best, but rather that someone in Hollywood actually green-lit this hard R-rated romp full of violence, language and sexual content. It’s almost like finding a lost companion piece to similar movies of the 90s.
There’s also no denying that watching Russell Crowe fightin round the world (okay, it’s really just Los Angeles but I couldn’t resist making a South Park joke) is hilariously entertaining. Of the two protagonists, he is definitely the more well-written one, mostly depicted as your standard bad ass without much of a conscience, though also looking for redemption by doing some of the right things. He’s no official private investigator like Gosling’s character, he simply just beats people up to make a living.
As for Gosling himself, the man is very talented and perfectly plays a dimwitted detective constantly surviving life or death situations based on pure luck, but the script does paint him as an alcoholic mourning over the loss of his wife that is trying to raise his teenage daughter, which is all well and good, except you never really feel the emotion or weight behind any of the attempts to show him as raging drunk that messes everything up. Sure, he is dishonest and loves money, but I don’t buy his redemption arc in the same vein that I did for Russell Crowe’s.
Thankfully, The Nice Guys is less about characterization, and more about letting two actors loose that clearly found a groove for turning great material into gold. Even the character of Gosling’s daughter gets to have a lot of fun (she actually might have the funniest scene in the movie), somehow ending up along for the ride on the journey solving a very weird case grounded in air pollution and pornography. Like I mentioned, the movie is crazy, wont make much sense, but that is the point, and you will roll with it considering that the presentation is electric.
With that said, the movie does feel like it goes on for about 20 minutes longer than actually necessary. As it builds to shootout after shootout, viewers will consistently begin to think that the movie is coming to a close, only it isn’t. The problem here is I actually have no idea what you cut from the film; it’s just a two-hour action comedy that generally feels like it’s longer than it is and could have been cut down. The good thing is that while something occasionally is predictable, the movie itself is not, and isn’t afraid to kill off characters you aren’t expecting to die. Essentially, that will keep you on your toes during downtime.
This isn’t a spoiler, but the movie does tease future sequels, and to be honest, the chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is so on point and humorous that I really hope Shane Black finds the time to get it made in the coming years. One movie with these buffoons just simply isn’t enough.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
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