“The Nice Guys” (2016)
Set in 1977 Los Angeles, where a young boy around ten years old is up late at night. He sneaks down the hallway to his parent’s room, quietly enters and promptly pulls a nudie magazine out from under their bed. We can tell from his casualness; this is something that he does on a regular basis. As he slowly makes his way down the hallway, he glances through the window to see a car coming down the road. It is erratically weaving back-n-forth, then quickly leaves the road, heading across the boy’s front yard at a high rate of speed. The car crashes literally through the house – entering one side and out the other, ending up in a ravine behind the house. The boy quickly heads outside to the wreck to witness a woman, almost entirely naked, has been ejected from the car and is badly hurt. The young boy realizes that the naked woman is the same woman he was looking at in the magazine. After a few moments of being stunned by his good fortune, he realizes the woman is dying and covers her up with his pajama top.
We cut to the next day to Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), as he is following a teenage girl as she leaves school. It would appear that Jackson is an enforcer for hire. The girl gets picked up by an older man, and they head for his house, with Jackson in tow. We wait outside the house as Jackson waits for the girl to leave. Once she does, Jackson puts on some brass knuckles, rings the doorbell and punches the guy out while saying “Stay away from young girls!”
We then cut to Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a Private Investigator. He has been hired by Mrs. Glenn (Lois Smith) to find her niece. It turns out the woman that we saw die in the car accident is a porn star named Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), the woman’s niece. Mrs. Glenn, even though she has “coke bottle” glasses, is convinced that she saw her alive in a Misty’s living room window the day after the car crash. Holland reluctantly takes the case, even though he doesn’t believe that her daughter is alive. Holland and Jackson are about to meet up, and they will be going on one wild ride, that will involve murder, conspiracies, and quite a few drinks.
Co-written and directed by Shane Black, “The Nice Guys” is a laughed filled, action packed, good old-fashioned film noir mystery where Crowe, and especially Gosling shine. Crowe plays the straight man to Gosling’s goofy Holland. Jackson is a part that isn’t easy to do, but Crowe plays off Gosling brilliantly, giving his character a world-weary menace. Crowe’s Jackson is a man who likes that his room is above a seedy comedy club. To Jackson it’s not unusual to be holding a bag of money that apparently has been stolen from a bank but can’t be opened because the dye pack will explode. Gosling’s Holland is successful as a P.I. but, it’s in spite of himself, as the man isn’t the smartest guy in the room and is incredibly clumsy. Gosling’s character is the type of guy who wakes up in a bathtub full of water while in a suit, and it doesn’t register to him that it’s not normal. Gosling shows an incredible talent for slapstick, bringing to mind Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau. Some of the best scenes in the film involve Gosling just falling and he does it a lot…off roofs, down hills, and even across rooms. The supporting cast of the film is hit and miss, but one standout is Angourie Rice, who plays Holland’s wise beyond her year’s daughter Holly. Rice plays her with a fierce determination reminding me of a young Jodie Foster, someone who can hold her own with Crowe and Gosling on the screen.
Black’s script, co-written by Anthony Bagarozzi, takes us on a very complex and funny adventure into the seedy world of bars, pornography, and wait for it, car manufacturing. The dialogue is quick, witty with some great cultural references of the 70’s mixed in. The film is filled with plenty of action and Black keeps those scenes crisp and well choreographed. Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot perfectly captures the smog filled L.A. landscape full of seedy motels and comedy clubs, giving the film a colorful look at in the time of multicolored slacks and really ugly cars. Between the smog, which is almost a character in the movie and the constant cigarette smoking, the camera seems to be in a perpetual cloud, fitting the film noir style of the movie. The mood is also helped by the costume designs by Kym Barrett and the art direction of David Utley, who capture the look and styles of the 70’s.
Like Black’s under appreciated 2005 film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “The Nice Guys” perfectly captures the quirky pulp fiction style of film making. Combined with impressive action sequences, sidesplitting comedy and superb performances from Gosling and Crowe, Black has another winner that will seem a lot shorter than it’s almost 2 hours run time because it’s just that much fun to watch. I’m ready for the next case for “The Nice Guys.” My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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