Monday, June 13, 2016

The Nice Guys (2016)

The main calling card of The Nice Guys is probably director and cowriter Shane Black's resume as co-mastermind with Richard Donner for the Lethal Weapon franchise, which I mostly don't know, but not far behind that is some surprising natural chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. As a thriller it's adequately thrilling and as a comedy it's often very funny, even as Crowe and Gosling work variations on the screen styles of John Goodman and Nicolas Cage, respectively. I liked it, didn't love it, which might be the usual vexing problem of paying too much attention to the hype ahead of time. For a movie that relies on bumbling ultraviolence for much of its effect it's pretty good, put it that way. Gosling plays Holland March, a private detective who's a bit of a con man. Crowe is Jackson Healy, a private detective who's more like a freelance kneecap artist. March also has a daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), a Nancy Drew wild card element, who follows her dad practically everywhere he goes, even into insanely dangerous situations. She might be the best part of the whole thing. It's set in Los Angeles in 1977 so there's lots of disco on the soundtrack, and while you're at it say hello to the pornography industry too. This isn't nearly as much like Boogie Nights as it might sound, but it's certainly not unaware of Boogie Nights. Mainly it's a three-man show, with Crowe, Gosling, and Rice taking their turns in the limelight. Gosling tends toward amping up the frenzy, which is where the resemblance to Cage comes in. But Crowe, playing it slovenly, overweight, and gravel-voiced, is there to rein in that kind of thing. It's a comedy in the buddy style—I've seen comparisons to Abbott and Costello and to Martin and Lewis. I'm sure it's too early to talk about any kind of long-term partnership here, but they are funny together. For her part, Rice is fresh-faced, plucky, and the only one with a true moral compass. You have to wonder if she isn't here for the duration too—again, she might be the best part of the whole thing, and it has a few good parts. If nothing else, it ratchets the tension whenever she is in danger, which is often. The case itself is busy but mostly irrelevant, serving only as the pretext for the various sites and attractions of '70s Los Angeles. Like disco parties, with disco playing. Hey, man. If you think about it too much you start to realize that The Nice Guys might be just another absurdist black comedy riffing smugly on the foolishness of Americans then and now. But you don't have to think about it too much because the jokes, including some very nice physical comedy set pieces, are funny and they keep coming. You'll have to decide for yourself about the ultraviolence.

1 comment:

  1. Crowe and Gosling are very funny in this.

    Nice review.

    - Zach (