Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Nice Guys

   Shane Black is carving out a very respectable niche for himself in the vast landscape of all that is 'movies'. Whether you know him as 'the guy with the pussy jokes' from Predator, or the writer of Lethal Weapon, Last Action Hero, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, OR... the writer/director of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man 3... there's no denying that the guy does good work. The Nice Guys is no exception. It's a sequel, in spirit only, to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and as such, it's perfect. He's approaching something that could rival Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy, if only he made a third one.

   Like Kiss Kiss, The Nice Guys is pretty much a buddy cop movie, though neither of the leads are actually cops. One is a private eye, and the other is... well... essentially a professional tough guy. Played by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, respectively, and they're both fantastic. Black has this knack for making pathetic and unlikable characters surprisingly endearing and fun to watch. He finds humor in both unexpected and familiar situations. If there is any caveat to The Nice Guys, it's that the story seems superfluous next to the dynamic and personal troubles of the main characters. I had the same problem with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

   I can remember names, dialog, and some great laughs from both movies, but the stories are so complicated that I probably couldn't tell you up from down if you asked. The Nice Guys revolves around the two guys having to team up to find this woman, which leads them into a mess of murder, sex, and drugs. But, then again, doesn't it always? By that token, the movie makes perfect enough sense from scene to scene, I was never lost while watching it, but I doubt I'll remember plot details all that much a couple days from now. Which, in the grand scheme of things is a pithy complaint about a movie that's such a damn good time.

   The Nice Guys is a blast, and I had fun from start to finish. Gosling and Crowe have great chemistry, and they inhabit this 70's noir flick perfectly. The action scenes blend intensity with humor, and it works. The danger is ever-present and feels real, but it couldn't be happening to two odder guys. Gosling's character, Holland March, can be a bit of a big bitch, he's a drunk who can't say no to free drinks, and frequently bungles his way through investigations. But, sometimes, he can be like a goddamn mystery solving savant. This is in direct contrast to Crowe's Jackson Healy, he's a 'fixer' for hire of sorts. If some guy's messing with your teenage daughter, you wanna send him a message, you call Healy. It works.

   The rest of the cast is pretty great as well. Especially Angourie Rice as Holly March, Holland's young daughter. She's probably the most competent character in the movie, yet she's still a kid and we don't lose sight of that. All in all, she could easily end up being the low-key backbone of March and Healy's potential private eye business. She also adds a lot f heart to the movie and humanized Gosling's character quite a bit. Then you have Kieth David and Beau Knapp as a pair of thugs who have it out for Healy. Knapp was pretty fantastic, and was channeling some major Sacha Baron Cohen in his role. Things keep getting better when Matt Bomer shows up as an out of town 'specialist' called John Boy.

   Just when you'd think the buddy-action-mystery-thriller-comedy genre has run out of steam, here's Shane Black and The Nice Guys to save the day. It's as exciting and stylish as it is sidesplittingly funny. This movie has the biggest laughs I've had from any movie this year, and it works because Healy and March feel like really well-written characters. They're a far cry from the overtly mismatched buddy cop duo's of the 80's and early 90's, instead their differences are more finely tuned and written into the story with a deft hand. Their repartee and the dialog of the movie in general is fantastic. The Nice Guys is poised to be classic Shane Black, and is probably the movie people wanted when they went to see Inherent Vice. It's 70's setting feels authentic, and so do the characters. What more could you ask for?

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