Spoil-Free Review: The Nice Guys
It is rare in 2016 that a comedy is really worth seeing in theaters. In the modern studio system the comedy is one of two things, it’s a Judd Apatow-esque romantic comedy complete with loathsome characters and clique story lines. Or it’s a raunchy adult comedy designed to appeal to the most strangely coveted demographic 18-25 year old men. There have been a few gems recently Dope, 21 Jump Street, The Obvious Child, and Top Five. But it is rare to find a movie that is both laugh out loud funny and also a good movie but The Nice Guys succeeds in both.
The Nice Guys is set in a late 1970s Los Angeles that is fast being choked by smog and porn and in the midst of a gas shortage. That is when our two heroes, Jackson Healy–a sucker punching nihilist solver of problems–and Holland March–a private eye who’s a little bit a father a lot a bit of an alcoholic and is basically Ryan Gosling, get pulled into the seedy underworld of this semi-dystopian Los Angeles. The plot is nothing special, in typical Shane Black fashion it’s pretty formulaic, but as audiences should expect from the guy who essentially invented the body cop action-comedy, it’s done nearly to perfection.
The series of trailers that came out for The Nice Guys did a real disservice to the movie and to Shane Black with the tagline “brought to you by Shane Black director of Iron Man 3.” Iron Man 3 is a perfectly good movie in it’s own right but like all the MCU movies that we know and love it’s more of a nerdgasm wrapped in a formulaic corporate franchise. The kind of fun that The Nice Guys is, and it is is very fun, is as far from the kind of fun that people going to Iron Man 3 are looking for. Not to mention that Iron Man 3 is far from a director’s movie. I’m not saying that Iron Man 3 is why The Nice Guys is shitting the bed at the box office but I do think telling people that a buddy cop 70s detective romp filled with boobs, booze, and bullets was “brought to you by the guy who brought you much of the Lethal Weapon series, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and most importantly Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” And Shane Black does what he does best, let his two charismatic stars run rampant in a wide open plot.
The real highlight of this movie is Ryan Gosling. By this point in the 35-year old’s career we’ve seen him play every kind of character, from the hopeless romantic that launched his in The Notebook, the silent brooding difficult handsome man from any number of films from Drive to Gangster Squad and Only God Forgives, to the quippy difficult handsome man from Crazy, Stupid, Love (then there’s whatever the fuck he was in Lars and the Real Girl). But we’ve never really seen this Ryan Gosling, someone who actually looks like they’re having a ton of fun on screen. Gosling falls all over himself as the bumbling detective and manages to steal every scene he’s in. The movie will have you laughing out loud and 99 out of 100 of those moments are due to Gosling’s undeniable charm.
The movie does turn into a series of tropes pretty quickly though it turns quickly from a unique story about its characters to a 70’s spy comedy that relies too heavily on the “find the girl” storyline and then takes a very Shane Black-esque plot turn that any audience that’s paying attention at all should see from a mile away. Aside from Ryan Gosling doing his best Ryan Reynold’s impression and Russel Crowe playing a very convincing straight-man there aren’t many memorable characters in the film. Matt Bomer, Keith David, and Kim Basinger are all but wasted on roles that are only in the movie to serve as plot devices or worse in the film. But all of this is saved by the movie’s enigmatic two stars and the stellar writing by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi. It’s nearly criminal that Neighbors 2 is doing better than this at the box office but we’ve already learned that good shit isn’t popular.
Must-See Rating: 3/5 This is the most fun I’ve had in the theater for a comedy in as long as I can remember. But at the end of the day this is a movie that you can get on DVD, you won’t miss much.
Great performances from the stars
Well shot period comedy
Great action and slapstick comedy