-A wonderfully silly buddy cop movie with two fantastic performances.
Love or hate the divisive Shane Black (director of Iron-Man 3 and the relentless Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), it’s hard to argue that The Nice Guys isn’t his most accessible film. Despite hitting it big within the superhero genre, many critics didn’t like his direction, and Iron-Man 3 remains one of the most divisive superhero films ever. To put his other work into context, Black was also responsible for writing the first two Lethal Weapon films and the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle The Long Kiss Goodnight.
In this film, he takes the mystery-buddy-cop comedy to a new level, encasing the look and feel of the 1970s in a film that feels extremely exaggerated and messy, but funny and grounded at the same time. If a viewer were to go in looking for flaws in the storytelling, they are evident; it’s hard not to occasionally take a step back from the film, especially in the third act, and wonder exactly what is happening. This disorganization speaks less to needing multiple viewings to understand, but more for a focus on the comedy, performances, and possible subliminal messaging of the film, where the plot often feels cast aside in favor of the tone and characters. If you’re a fan of David O’Russell’s work, like American Hustle, then it won’t bother you, and for the most part, it didn’t bother me either. These flaws, which I will touch on slightly more in depth later in the review are mainly the reason why this is not a “5 Star” film, but it’s damn close, and one of the best efforts we’ve gotten so far this year, along with Eye in the Sky and Everybody Wants Some.
Our film starts with two unlikely characters forming a bond, and this improbable connection is the basis for how good this film really is: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are both at the top of their game, and the film’s energy works entirely around their partnership. Gosling’s Holland March, a slightly dopey private investigator, takes a case from a porn-star named Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio)’s Aunt, who states that after her presumed death, that she saw Misty in her home. Holland realizes that the old lady may be crazy, but takes her money anyway, stating that she thinks the Aunt may have confused Misty for a local girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who Holland begins tailing. Meanwhile, Amelia, freaked out by Holland following her, hires a local private investigator/enforcer named Jack Healy (Russell Crowe) who comes into Holland’s home and beats him up. Despite this, Holland and his smart-witted teenage daughter (Angourie Rice) continue the case. When Jack is confronted by two hitmen, Blue Face (Beau Knapp) and Older Guy (Keith David) for being involved with Amelia in some way, both Holland and Jack begin to work together when they find out that Amelia, and everyone involved with an adult film that she made, is being hunted and possibly killed.
While the comedy works great, with some of the snappiest dialogue in recent memory, the plot doesn’t always work as well. After the actual linear plot concludes, the film drags on for an extra fifteen to twenty minutes where it the subtextual plot lines are explained and drawn out, dealing with the power of the government and corruption between the government and certain industry. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s executed in a way that leaves a little bit to be desired, and for as snippy and taut as the comedy is, the more dramatic aspects of the film do not work as well.
That being said, however, the characters explode off of the screen, and the main three, Gosling, Crowe, and Gosling’s daughter, all feel so complete that you could describe their traits, opinions, wants, and desires in a very complete and competent manner. Once the action starts, as well, the complete confidence and prepared-ness of Crowe foils off of Gosling’s manic energy in both a serious and comedic way. The seriousness of the situation remains present, where characters you care about are approaching danger, but the comedy remains when Gosling drunkenly rolls down a hill or falls from a balcony into a swimming pool. When he drunkenly flirts with the occasional girl, you get some of his Crazy Stupid Love charm along with the occasional amount of true action-hero characteristics like in some of his other efforts. Crowe is sturdy in response, playing the straight man who has a little bit more of a heart than he’s willing to let on.
I can’t really venture much more into what I like about this film without spoiling some of the great moments. It’s the type of film that’s harder to talk about because you walk out with a smile on your face and just genuine enjoyment, and this comes from less of a necessarily describable rationale. Either way, expect this film to remain in many Top 10 lists, and it really is the movie to see in theaters right now.
The Nice Guys (2016)
Director: Shane Black (Iron-Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, and Margaret Qualley
RT Score: 91%