In 1970s Los Angeles, a mismatched pair of private eyes investigate a missing girl and the mysterious death of a porn star.
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Keith David
Rated: R (violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use)
The Nice Guys
By Cole Schneider
Shane Black’s (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, “Iron Man 3”) new crime comedy “The Nice Guys” is a blast. Whatever faults the film has—and it does have a few—and however paper thin the film may be, the mix of noir mystery, pulp indulgence, and physical comedy is supremely entertaining. Black brings some of his signature manic writing style and while he’s probably overwritten the script at some points and underwritten it at others, the product is never less than intriguing.
That’s because the two leads in the buddy comedy, Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”, “Drive”, “The Big Short”) and Russel Crowe (“The Insider”, “Gladiator”, A Beautiful Mind”), are absolutely brilliant. Crowe plays a too-confident hired thug and having more fun than we’ve ever seen him have. Gosling plays a drunken, buffoon private eye and channels Buster Keaton to give us probably the greatest physically hilarious performance since Leonardo DiCaprio in 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
Set in the 70s porn scene, the two play off each other hilariously as they unravel the mystery behind the murders of those involved in a certain adult movie. It’s got some “Boogie Nights” in it and it certainly has some recalls to “L.A. Confidential”, but it may best be described as a rewrite of Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” inspired by David Foster Wallace’s witty, incisive essay, “Big Red Son”. Polanski and Wallace’s journalistic prose may be pushed aside for more contrived laughs, but they’re big, cinematic laughs. Even better movies of this kind—“The Long Goodbye”, “The Big Lebowski”—don’t have the sheer volume of working visual gags.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
The Nice Guys
By Matt Greene
In the late 1900s, there was a very particular genre of film that had a ubiquitous presence at cinemas and the box office: the good-ole fashioned action-buddy-comedy. From 48 Hours to Rush Hour, it’s a mindlessly entertaining genre, known as much for its cozy saxophone scores and cheesy emotions as for its ridiculous explosions and fun patter. The Nice Guys mixes these familiar feels with the gloss of a (less-layered and more accessible) Coen Bros film, giving us a seedy and comfortably familiar noir-caper, full of big characters and bigger laughs.
Through a series of chance meetings and unlikely alliances, two men barely on the right side of the law in 1970s L.A. join forces to try to locate and protect a young woman. While tonally the film is very 80s, the 70s L.A. setting perfectly shines with grimy detail. Crowe and Gosling, donned in loud suits and ill-advised facial hair, fall right into place. Both of them are super-funny and clearly enjoying themselves, eating up scenes filled with more character than you can shake a pimp’s stick at, and getting to play with dialogue worth dying for.
That brainy banter is a large part of director/write Black’s signature style. With only 3 directing credits to his name (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3), his fearless confidence with his characters and scripts is admirable in our increasingly play-it-safe action-movie world. The Nice Guys is pure and simple fun that deserves to be supported if for no other reason than to get to see these three dudes team up for more hilarious misadventures in the future.
3.5 out of 5 stars