By Christian DiMartino
Saw two new movies this weekend. One is a mediocre cash grab. The other is one that is likely to become a sleeper. Let’s start with the latter.
If I told you that I didn’t have something of a blast at Shane Black’s The Nice Guy, then that would make me a darned liar. The Nice Guys is a blast: a groovy, hilarious, great looking, fun blast that shows that after all these years, Black still has it. Black, in case you weren’t aware, wrote one of the my favorite action movies, Lethal Weapon. So, obviously, I expect the goods from him. He delivers.
Similar in tone to Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys is a stylish noir that is pretty much anchored by its stars. In order for a buddy cop movie to work, you have to find the right actors, and in finding them, you also have to make sure they will work. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe seem like an unlikely match, but I’ll be damned if they’re not the best duo we’ve seen this year. They work so well together, and help smooth things out, you can tell that they’re having a blast together.
Alright so where to begin? There are so many plot details that I don’t even think I’ll be able to cover everything. That, and some of it is a little murky to me. But hey, it still makes more sense than Inherent Vice (another movie I thoroughly enjoyed, despite it’s incoherence).
1970s California. Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a real hardass private eye. Gosling plays Holland March, a really wuss private eye (you hear his hilarious high pitched squeal a lot). Healy is asked by a girl named Amelia to get March to stop following her. So… Healy breaks his arm. They hit off real well.
But the two are forced to join together in order to eventually find Amelia, as March was initially trying to do. Turns out that Amelia is on the run and people are trying to kill her. Why? Amelia is involved in a porno. There’s further reasoning than that, but it’s a spoiler, so we won’t go there. But what I will tell you is that people really want this bloody tape, and will kill whoever stands in their way in order to get ahold of it. Kim Basinger and Matt Bomer show up (briefly) as Amelia’s mom and a hitman. Both roles are a tad underwritten.
Yeah I admit that there were times in The Nice Guys where I was kind of scrambling to keep up with the mystery at hand. Like a lot of mysteries, there’s just a few too many names, blah blah blah. I also wish we would’ve gotten more from Basinger and Bomer. But yet all of these are easy to look past, considering just how much it is.
This is a film that just has a great energy to it, and I think it’s mostly because of the energy that Gosling and Crowe provide. Crowe has this perfect deadpan that works. I didn’t know he had it in him. As for Gosling, I forgot how funny he could be. Crowe is wonderful, but Gosling steals the show. Either way, The Nice Guys is a wonderful vehicle that lets these two great actors let loose for a change. It also offers a new talent: Newcommer Angourie Rice. She plays Gosling’s clever daughter, and she’s wonderful. It’s one of those rare child performances that doesn’t drive you nuts, and in a way, she’s kind of like one of the guys.
Black really creates the feeling the 70s, what with the costumes and the production design. He really makes it look like the place to be. Then there’s the screenplay, which Black co-wrote, which is filled with one-liners that probably worked on paper, but work even better due to the delivery. Regardless, there are some truly hilarious moments here (though there is a random dream sequence that doesn’t quite work).
I know a lot of you probably went to see Neighbors 2 (Review up next), or Angry Birds instead of this one. It’s a real shame honestly, because The Nice Guys is so smart, funny, and refreshing. They say that nice guys may finish last. But in this case, I have to disagree.