No, these are not The Other Guys. They are The Nice Guys, though nice may be a bit of a misnomer. Private Investigators Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) do the same job, but in different ways in 1970’s Los Angeles. Holland is a bit neurotic, and Healy a little more no-nonsense.
A possibly interconnected mystery involving a death of a famous porn star and the disappearance of a young lady forces their paths to cross. In between all of the glitz and glamour the City of Angels provides, something shady may be going on, and two heads, instead of one, are going to be needed to unravel this tangled web.
Neo-noir is not a genre seen a lot in the 21st century, and that may be a good thing, Though it would be great to see it more in the mainstream, the times we do get it often makes for a breath of fresh air. Shane Black’s The Nice Guys takes the genre, some talented lead actors, and a good crime story and turns it into a watch that is immensely fun.
Compared to the blockbusters usually seen around this time of the summer season, The Nice Guys is positioned as counter-programming for the “smart adult” moviegoer. That is sort of true, but only in lack of spectacle. Yours truly would argue that The Nice Guys is as “summer-y” as any blockbuster one is likely to see this year, only missing the CGI and large environments. It’s light, quick, snappy, and bright.
The 70’s-set locale in LA hearkens itself to the disco era, with tons of orange and yellows and neon lighting making up the predominate color palette of the film. Music junkies of that era, rejoice, as licensed songs by Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Temptations, and Brick along with others all make appearances and make it impossible not to bob your head along to what is shown on screen. Additionally, a good score composed by John Ottman and David Buckley punctuates some of the action scenes well. After seeing his contributions to Iron Man 3, I wasn’t expecting the action here to be so satisfying, but it is. Very interested to see how The Predator looks in a few years now.
It’s no surprise to see that Black, who made his name as a writer, takes that responsibility upon himself in The Nice Guys yet again. He uses a few well-worn cliches that epitomize the buddy-cop genre, and anyone who has never been fond of the subgenre is likely not to find anything here to change that sentiment. For a little while, the screenplay is sort of scattered, and it is hard to see how these leads our duo takes looks at fit together. But they finally do, and a nice twist gives an interesting addition to the final act, which shifts our leads from a focus on doing their jobs to doing the right thing.
The success of buddy cop movies hinge a lot on their stars, and Black decided to cast some big ones in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Their chemistry is infectious, starting through the hilarious first scene the two share together and on. On their own, they are great as well. Crowe is the straight man of the two, while Gosling is more of the buffoon who still possesses the smarts when needed. There is a know-how that is needed in both roles, perhaps more so Crowe’s, that these two get right. A surprise revelation is the young Angourie Rice playing the daughter of Gosling’s character. Not ready to say she’s a scene stealer in this film, but she is awfully close and infuses the screenplay with an emotional component that may not exist without her.
Nice guys don’t always have to finish at the bottom, and though its box office returns in coming weeks are likelier to be closer to the bottom of the top 10 than the top, it will be no indication of how much summer (really any season) amusement is to be had with The Nice Guys. The ending leaves open the possibility of more adventures with this oddball duo. I say bring it on, and stuff.
Photo credits go to collider.com and ubertopic.com.
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