Title: The Nice Guys
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Homer: "John, you seem like a perfectly nice guy and all, just stay the hell away from my family."
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Five bottles of Yoo-hoo out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Unlikely allies unite to solve porn-adjacent mystery.
Tagline: "They're not that nice."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) make for unlikely partners, especially after Healy breaks March's arm in what can charitably be described as a misunderstanding. Before you can say "Munich," the pair have teamed up to solve the mystery of a porn star's apparent suicide while simultaneously confronting the occasionally hilarious ways their lives have gone off the rails.
"Critical" Analysis: Shane Black, co-writer/director of The Nice Guys, didn't invent the "buddy cop" genre, but he more or less created the modern template with the Lethal Weapon series and simultaneously refined and twisted it with 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Still, if you told me the funniest comedy in recent memory would star that guy with the abs from The Notebook and that guy who couldn't sing his way out of le sac en papier in Les Misérables, I'd...well, hypotheticals fail me. Let's just say the suggestion would have been met with some incredulity.
That The Nice Guys is so good shouldn't really be surprising. Crowe and Gosling are both actors of some repute (Crowe's won an Oscar; Gosling's been nominated), while Black has written some of the finest action movies of modern times. Then again, Crowe hasn't headlined a good movie in almost a decade, and Black also wrote Lethal Weapon 3 and 4.
All that aside, this is a movie worthy of your attention. The screenplay is classic Shane Black, expertly blending black humor, violence and satire while playing off the chemistry of the two leads, the same leads who demonstrate comedic chops nobody saw coming (not counting the unintentional comedy of Broken City or Gangster Squad). The laughs are frequent and gratifying, and Crowe and Gosling play off each other so well you'll wish they were planning on making a whole series of March-Healy capers.
Comedy isn't Crowe's strength, but he was able to bring humor to previous roles, however outwardly earnest they may have been. Still, it's perhaps better that Healy's primary purpose is as deadpan counterpoint to March, whether correcting the latter's vocabulary regarding castration or matter-of-factly breaking bones. Gosling is the real surprise, adding his slapstick Costello to Crowe's taciturn Abbott. He has a knack for physical comedy and self-deprecation that gleefully subverts a decade-plus of rom-coms and Nicolas Winding Refn movies.
And unlike with so many other period flicks, the ’70s setting doesn't feel gimmicky. The plot, amorphous as it occasionally is, legitimately fits with the period. And though the clothes may be unconsciously hilarious, the sentiments — from March's doomsday pronouncements about the youth of today to the era's now-quaint environmental concerns — never seem out of place.
But if they never play "The Piña Colada Song" in a movie again in this lifetime, I'm good with that.
If your only exposure to The Nice Guys has been through the handful of trailers released, don't be fooled. The end product is much more profane and cynical than the handful of SFW scenes you've caught on TV. Give Black credit for making the experience enjoyable rather than bogging it down in its own mordancy. It's not a feel-good movie by any stretch, but there's optimism and a kind of redemption for our not-quite heroes.
The Nice Guys is in theaters today. And it's pronounced "München."
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