The Nice Guys was one of my most anticipated movies of this year and I finally got to see it yesterday. I knew what I was getting into before I saw it because director Shane Black sort of made a similar black comedy crime movie in 2005 with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which revamped what was Robert Downey Jr.’s shaky career. That film was criminally underrated and I remember it being ridiculously entertaining; it balanced violence and humor really well. Shane Black has also recently done Iron Man 3 which I liked, but I was surprised to learn that he wrote the screenplay for the first Lethal Weapon. That put things in perspective, this guy is great at pairing two actors who are not necessarily known for being funny: Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, and now we have Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. As soon as I saw the trailer at the beginning of this year; I got a good vibe from it. I couldn’t tell if the movie was actually going to work, but I could tell from that trailer that the lead actors had chemistry.
The movie is set in 1977 Los Angeles and the whole style of the film fits well with the time period; whenever there are shots of the city the quality of the picture on screen would noticeably diminish to give off a VHS type of feel. The film opens in a rather bizarre manner; a famous porn star crashes into a random family’s house. She appears perfectly placed on a rock to whisper her last words to a boy from the family who moments before was looking at her magazine before she came crashing down into his house. That opening had me worried because it seemed too random, but it was also central to the story of the film and I wasn’t sure how they were going to make it work. Ryan Gosling plays a private eye, Holland March, who tracks people down and is all about draining every last bit of money out of the clients by further lengthening his cases. Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy) plays someone who hurts people for a living at the request of mostly teenage girls who have been done wrong by men or people who think they are being followed. Their paths cross when a client hires Healy to beat up March and that client is Amelia played by Margaret Qualley who is know for her role in HBO’s The Leftovers. Everybody seems to be looking for Amelia; March is looking for her because the grandmother of the dead porn star is convinced she is alive. Healy decides to team up with March to track down his elusive client Amelia who has gone missing. March has a teenage daughter who is every bit a detective as he is and even though he won’t win father of the year anytime soon, they work great together.
Right off the bat, the chemistry between the lead actors is fantastic and they have that classic buddy cop movie relationship where they’re stuck together and have to get along. I laughed a lot, even when the movie slowed down for a moment from its blistering pace or when it would reach familiar territory, the back and forth between these two characters kept me entertained. Shane Black knows how to direct action set pieces with flare and humor. There is a standout villain among others played by Matt Bomer (John Boy) who I thought was a bit underused. There are so many gags involving March (Gosling’s character) that will have you in tears and I really can’t stress enough how great Gosling is in this film; he was incredibly funny and this was his first real comedic role besides crazy, stupid, love. Russell Crowe plays more of the serious investigator who is dealing with personal issues regarding his place in the world and both of these characters have troubled pasts. Amelia is like the road runner who keeps eluding everyone, and her character didn’t add much to the movie despite her having her motivations for disappearing. Kim Basinger is in this movie, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw her in anything, L.A. Confidential? 8 Miles? This movie was everything I had hoped it would be and much more, we really don’t get films that are this outrageous and entertaining anymore. (9.5/10)