The Nice Guys

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Director Shane Black is still in his prime.
★★★★
Movie Review #1,081

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Distributed by Warner Bros.  Action, Comedy, Crime.  Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes.  Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.  Released May 20, 2016.  Directed by Shane Black.  Produced by Joel Silver.  Written by Shane Black & Anthony Bagarozzi.  Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, and Kim Basinger.

“Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate.  Remember that.” — Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy

Rarely do I say this regarding any movie, but I’ll say it for this one: “The Nice Guys” plays out exactly as the trailer promises, if not even better.  It’s a dark, weird, and hilarious L.A. mystery, fueled by cars and cocaine, crime and catastrophe.  Every scene in the movie is more fantastic than the last, and all told, it becomes about as wild as one of the extravagant Hollywood parties its director, Shane Black, was known for throwing in the 1990s.  The difference is that “The Nice Guys” takes place in 1977.  We become one with the era through a stellar soundtrack, which features America, the Bee Gees, Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire, and much between.

Shane Black has a knack for writing buddy comedies.  “Lethal Weapon”, “The Last Boy Scout”, “Last Action Hero”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”–those are all his works.  Undoubtedly, the script is what makes this movie so good.  The premise is that a porn star is missing, and presumably dead, and a private investigator, Holland March (Ryan Gosling), is hired to find out who kidnapped or killed her.  Meanwhile, the actress hires an enforcer, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), to put Holland in his place because she doesn’t wish to be found.  Soon enough, they’re both working toward the same goal of figuring out just what the hell is going on, why this porn star is missing, from whom she is hiding, et cetera.

It’s when Black is also the director that he’s really in his element.  Never would I have imagined Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling together in the same movie, but here they are and their chemistry is perfection.  Let’s not forget the biggest scene-stealer, Holland’s foulmouthed daughter, Holly.  This is Rice’s first Hollywood movie, and I truly hope to see more of her.  Her character’s relationship with her father is priceless, and from it, we get a number of memorable exchanges like the following:

Holly: “Dad, there are whores here and stuff.”

Holland: “Don’t say ‘and stuff,’ just say, ‘Dad, there are whores here.'”

We’ve seen a fairly similar movie somewhat recently: Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice”.  That movie was great, but not perfect.  Where Anderson’s detective tale lacked coherent substance, Black’s balances it perfectly with its style.  At the end of the day, entertainment is a strong suit for “The Nice Guys”, and it does that thoroughly.  The movie swarms you with a hot story of 1970s sex and violence, and every moment of it is absolutely irresistible.  It’s essentially Mr. Black’s Twin Peaks, and he does a damn good job with it.

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