Set in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys begins its buddy crime comedy with an impossibly insane inciting incident. Just as a young boy (probably about director and writer Shane Black’s age during these years) opens a dirty magazine to ogle a famous porn star, the famous porn star herself crashes through his house, narrowly missing him. He goes to assess the damage and promptly covers her up during her final moments.
To put it simply, this is a film that embraces the absurd and dues ex machina of it all in order to get its point across, which varies from scene to scene. And while there’s no thread that neatly connects a lot of the bigger moments in this story about two private investigators who unravel a Hollywood porno conspiracy, a lot of the gags and character moments are flat out impressive and refreshing.
And you couldn’t ask for better actors to fill these roles. Russell Crowe plays Healy, the no-nonsense muscle. Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a bumbling demigod of survival. And Holland’s wise-talking daughter, Holly, is played by Angourie Rice, whom you’ll certainly be seeing more of out of Hollywood.
Originally intended to be a pilot for a TV series heavily inspired by “The Rockford Files” (which is clear throughout the film with its many loving references to that 70s show), The Nice Guys was converted to film when it was clear that the pilot had too many issues.
And some of these problems seem to have carried over to the final product, which is a story that is sorely lacking of a rewrite that addresses many of the plot contrivances and shallow characterization for anyone outside the “big three,” and perhaps an unlikely villain who emerges past the halfway mark.
But Gosling, Crowe, and Rice were made to fill the screen together, in what is one of the best displays of onscreen chemistry all year, along with some of the best jokes. Gosling gives his all in a hilarious performance that mixes surprisingly violent physical comedy with laser-focused comedic timing. Not all of the jokes in The Nice Guys land quite as well as they were probably intended, but the duds are few to find. In fact, the film’s best joke is probably the fact that it’s a film about Hollywood that was actually filmed in Georgia.
For most fans of Lethal Weapon and especially Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well anyone keen to pick up on the mountains of 70s pop culture references, this film will be a godsend and probably your favorite movie of the year. But for everyone else, it does the job at a deeply discounted rate.
- I prefer the 60s when it comes to 20th Century decades.
- Russell Crowe seemed quite in his element alongside Gosling, especially during the funnier moments. With a better edited script, the likely sequel to The Nice Guys could be one of the best movies in years. That’s how much more of these characters I want to see.
- Kim Basinger really fits in with the era of this movie. But not in a good way.
- I forgot to mention some of the action of this movie, which is fantastic for the most part. The only scenes that fell flat were the ones in the third act, and that’s only because the entirety of that act is a bit of a mess. The film essentially peaks at the elevator scene.
- If you’re someone who obsesses over, Why wouldn’t that character do X, Y, and Z, then you might have a bad time.
I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni