I was thinking…
…one of the quickest ways to get me to laugh is to hear a grown man scream like a woman. And there is so very much of that in The Nice Guys.
Shane Black’s (Iron Man 3) latest directorial outing, the action comedy stretches back to that most magical of all years, 1977.
Ah yes, 1977. Carter entered the White House, men were wearing polyester jumpsuits as regular clothing, people were paying actual money to buy rocks as pets and then there was the birth of yours truly.
But Star Wars came out that year, too, so it didn’t all suck.
From the very outset, The Nice Guys latches on to that fringe-draped, bell-bottomed bygone time of disco and does not let go. The old style Warner Bros. logo (you know, the one that looks like a little stylized balloon animal), kicks off the film and we delve directly into the sex, drugs and violence of 1970’s Los Angeles.
Holland March (Ryan Gosling—The Big Short, Drive), is a private eye and quite possibly–as his young daughter states–“the worst detective in the world.” Entrusted to find the missing niece of a sweet, old, coke-bottle glasses wearing lady, March draws out the investigation, despite the fact that the young woman he’s being paid to look for is a porn actress who has been dead for several days.
Part of his investigation leads him to a girl named Amelia, a protestor who enlists the aid of hired goon, Jackson Healy (Russel Crowe—Man of Steel), to keep certain men off her trail.
The least dangerous of those men is March, whom Healy ‘dissuades’ with considerably convincing aplomb.
But when a pair of thugs accost Healy in order to find Amelia–who has now gone missing–Healy heads back to the only P.I. with whom he is associated: Holland March.
The two are also enlisted by the head of the justice department, Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger—Grudge Match), to find Amelia, as the missing girl is her daughter.
The unlikely duo launches its search with the un-asked-for help of March’s daughter, leading them to the debauchery of a porn producer’s party, putting them on the hit-list of a killer nicknamed John Boy (Matt Bomer—White Collar) and entangling them in a nationwide conspiracy for which neither of them is prepared–or intelligent enough–to uncover.
At times convoluted and home to a few confusing–if not outright inscrutable–plot points, The Nice Guys is an otherwise thoroughly entertaining flick.
Little touches, such as the aforementioned Warner Bros. logo, help pull one into the appropriate mindset right from the start and one is hard-pressed to find any slip-ups when it comes to dubious set details. If it weren’t for the cast and the quality of the film stock, one could be convinced the picture had actually been made in that most useless of decades.
Gosling and Crowe establish a fantastic buddy dynamic, pushing me to ponder why Gosling was not sooner employed in such a fashion. A little too sissified to be a convincing action star and a tad too Canadian to be a great romantic lead, Gosling seems to finally fit into the wonderful wheelhouse of a bumbling, shrieking, weak-stomached private investigator who is convinced he is a heck of lot better at everything than he really is.
Crowe plays the somewhat down-on-his-luck, aging Healy as a man who still harbors a degree of hero-worship. He intimates that there is so much more to the man’s past and what we are granted is merely a glimpse into the first few layers of a recently cracked crust.
Together, the duo is not only a surprisingly adequate team but an extremely successful comedic pairing. Well before the final credits began to scroll, I found myself hoping this neo-noir film would be but the first in a long serial of similar hard-boiled mysteries.
Supported by a secondary and tertiary cast of individuals and littered with timely references without getting bogged down by the obviously patronizing, the setting establishes itself well as the next most likely era for adventures of a Dashiell Hammett variety.
While there is certainly an air of predictability to the outcome of the movie, the numerous unexpected twists during the ride to the already prognosticated end make the journey itself the best part of all.
Not at all like the foul-mouthed, slapstick, lowest-common-denominator tripe that runs rampant on screens across the country, The Nice Guys is genuinely funny from start to finish with a dryness akin to a martini with only five parts per million of vermouth. Perhaps it is just a nostalgia high, but The Nice Guys pumps so much life and interest back into that extinct era, one could almost wish for its return.
Ammo Dump rating: 8 out of 10 Misty Mountains
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
The Nice Guys
Run time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)