“The Nice Guys,” the newest film by director Shane Black, starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, was on my radar for a while.
I knew practically nothing about the movie. It seemed like an interesting piece of counter-programming, a film about two lovable screw-ups fumbling their way through a case with 70’s Los Angeles as a backdrop. Little did I know that “The Nice Guys” would turn out to be a shockingly enjoyable R-rated buddy-cop action movie.
It’s pretty refreshing to take a break from the superhero blockbusters that have been crowding the screen as of late and be entertained from start to finish by clever writing, witty dialogue and great performances by the two leads. I laughed really hard at this movie and it was amazing to see both a love letter and a tongue-in-cheek criticism of one of the oddest decades in America.
What makes the film charming is that it is an unabashed satire of the wild and crazy times of Los Angeles in the late 1970’s. From the start of the film, it’s pretty clear that the plot of the movie, such as it is, involves the sleazy parallel of the ritzy and glamorous Hollywood film industry, to put it subtly. To be more blunt, it involves the pornography industry and the titular characters are tasked with finding a missing starlet.
Honestly, the plot is a bit of a mess, but this is merely symptomatic of the detective/noir genre in general. What matters are the characters and the thrill of following them on a quest through several outrageously funny scenarios as they get closer to solving the mystery.
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have tremendous chemistry on screen. People who know Gosling as more of a heart-throb or pretty boy will be shocked to discover just how funny he can be. He has impeccable comedic timing and really embodies the sleazy, yet lovable, screw-up archetype.
Crowe, meanwhile, plays the straight man and action hero, although he does get a few jokes in here and there. The two really play off of each other well. So much so, that they are almost like an Abbott and Costello for the new millennium.
“The Nice Guys” is everything that going to the movies should be in an ideal world. Don’t get me wrong, I get plenty of enjoyment watching beloved superheros punch each other in the face repeatedly. After a while though, you start to crave something different, something unique — a movie that doesn’t seem like it ran through a hundred focus groups and is essentially a license to print money. “The Nice Guys” is just a funny and clever flick featuring great performances that will keep you entertained for the entire run time.
We need more movies like this and I really hope this film enjoys some success.