By: Mitch Hansch (Two Beers) –
Set in the lush 70’s L.A. scene amidst the gas panics and daily smog alerts, The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy, a Bronx-born street tough who earns his wages by being hired to beat people up, not sure how you put that in your W-2’s. Healy savors the gigs where he gets to put the hurt on men who fool around with underaged girls. He’s not the smartest, although he does try to learn a new word a day, but what he does know is that he feels that his life is being wasted, and what he really wants is to be useful.
Ryan Gosling is Holland March, an ex-police force now scheming private investigator who when his wife passed hit the bottle, and his 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) now takes more care of him than he does for her. Bumbling and stumbling, March can’t even break through a door window pane without putting himself in the hospital.
Healy and March, after a painful first encounter for March, end up teaming up on a case that starts with tracking down an already dead pornstar named Misty Mountains to eventually getting tangled up in conspiracy that goes as deep as the head of L.A. law enforcement (played by Kim Basinger), auto emissions, and the Big 3 car makers.
Shane Black knows how to do buddy cop films, the man wrote Lethal Weapon for goodness sake. He mines that genre’s tropes for all it’s worth with his fantastic leads, and just like in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, he just absolutely rocks it with a very funny and very compelling detective story.
It’s nice to see Crowe doing comedy again, because he can, and even if he’s let himself go (adding about 60 pounds since the last time he worked with Basinger in L.A. Confidential), he hasn’t let his acting chops go. I’m so happy to see the much younger Gosling able to have his pulse on taking parts that don’t suck (forgiving of course Gangster Squad). A gem is the young Australian actress Angourie Rice, who does very well playing the film’s moral center.
Black specializes in dumb characters in smart movies, and The Nice Guys is no different. I love it when you can see a filmmaker having fun. The lush backdrop of both the 70’s and L.A. during that time makes the film pop all the more and the quirky dialogue, including an angry rant on ventriloquists that I particularly enjoyed, don’t hurt the viewing experience either.
I will say that as much as I did enjoy Nice Guys, it doesn’t hold up to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. FYI, you can thank that movie for the Marvel Universe we all enjoy today. When Kiss Kiss came out Robert Downey Jr. was on the outs in Hollywood just coming back from his latest drug rehabilitation. Without Kiss Kiss, Downey Jr. never gets cast as Iron Man, and then somebody else is cast, way less charismatic, and who knows if it ever catches on (talking to you, Henry Cavill). But I digress, the script is much more snappy and awesomely frantic in Kiss Kiss and Kiss Kiss in my opinion holds up as just a perfect little film.
Delivering smaller non-event films that somehow feel more like an event-film than most of what the studios are putting out, Shane Black, director of the impeccable Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the very profitable Iron Man 3, is back at the helm doing what he does best.
The Nice Guys is a very, very good little film that again, feels like such a bigger film than it is. A treat no less.
The Nice Guys (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever an innocent bystander is shot.
Take a Drink: every time Holland March (Gosling) hurts himself.
Take a Drink: any time some says, “and stuff”.
Take a Drink: every time Gosling screams in a high pitch squeal.
Down a Shot: for every Hitler or Nixon reference.