Lethal Weapon this movie is not, but that doesn’t mean it is not a hilarious, action packed comedy worth seeing in theaters.
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger, Yaya DaCosta, Matt Bomer, Murielle Telio, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Jack Kilmer
In 1977 Los Angeles, a porn star named Misty Mountains (Telio) is murdered. Single father and barely functioning alcoholic, Holland March (Gosling), has been hired by her aunt to find out why Misty appeared alive and well in her house two days after her reported death. At the same time Amelia Kuttner (Qualley) employs Jackson Healy (Crowe), a muscle for hire, to beat up a couple of guys who have been following her. In the process of trying to do the jobs they were hired for, March and Healy team up to figure out a big conspiracy involving the deaths of a few people in the porn industry and search for Amelia who may be in danger.
This film actually started out as a pilot for a television series that was to be a Rockford Files like show, but it never panned out. So Black and Bagarozzi chose to turn it into a film that has more than a few nods to the 70’s TV show which starred James Garner. The detective noir/comedy has many flaws that probably kept the pilot from being filmed in the first place. There are too many instances of coincidence, someone casually runs into the one person they want to talk to at a huge party, a body is randomly stumbled upon, a bad guy slips keeping our heroes from being shot. If it would have happened once or twice, it could have been overlooked or forgiven, but there are many more than just one or two. There are times when the story starts to meander and outside of Healy, March, and his daughter Holly (Rice), none of the other characters go beyond typical stereotypes in a detective story.
What saves The Nice Guys and kept me entertained was the amazing chemistry between Gosling, Crowe, and Rice. Crowe for the most part plays the straight man, but he is more than just a tough guy. He has principles and genuinely cares when it seems as if Amelia is in danger. Crowe also gets a decent share of the humor, but it is Gosling who steals the comedic spotlight as a private investigator who just barely holds himself together for the sake of his daughter. Gosling makes a big departure from his quieter performances in the recent indie dramas like Drive or The Place Beyond the Pines and goes full tilt into the violently physical comedy of a man who loves his drink. Rice could have been written off as just the precocious daughter of March, but instead she acts more as the conscience for her misanthropic father and even puts herself in danger to save her father and Healy on more than one occasion.
Many people have compared this film to Black’s directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and it does have the same dark yet sharp humor, but it is more in line with Black’s screen writing debut in Lethal Weapon in terms of plot and opposites attract buddy action/comedy. The ending is left open to a sequel and I do hope The Nice Guys has enough financial success to warrant one. The story itself may have some flaws, but Black was able to bring out the best in his actors and tell an entertaining story that allows for the audience to walk out of the theater remembering the best parts.
4 out of 5 Stars