All hail the buddy cop movie. I didn’t even know I missed this genre until director Shane Black brought it back with a vengeance.
It’s a classic trope: pairing two Hollywood stars, give them equal billing, give them equally at odds personality types, and watch the money rake in. It’s what brought us great films like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles or Rush Hour. But both those movies paired actors at the height of their popularity and put them into a movie that combined their respective genres. With that in mind, the pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling makes literally no sense.
The Nice Guys is set in late 70’s Hollywood. With all the smoking, parties, drugs, colors, and burgeoning porn industry that entails. Holland (Gosling) is a private detective. He’s good at using his brains. Jackson (Crowe) is also a private detective. He’s good at using his muscle. They don’t work together. In fact, Jackson breaks Holland’s arm within the first 10 minutes of the movie. But when a girl they’re both looking for leads towards a conspiracy involving the government, the auto industry, and the porn industry, they can’t help but get involved. Mostly because if they don’t solve the case, someone will kill them anyways.
It’s everything you want in a Hollywood crime film. It’s also something extra. Maybe it’s the unexpected pairing. Crowe is the grizzled heart of the film, much more suited to helming an action film. But here he is, having smarmy conversations with a precocious thirteen year old. Gosling is a dramatic actor. But may the Lord strike you down if you don’t laugh at him cutting his arm open trying to break a window or when he screams “JESUS” in falsetto every time something dangerous happens.
But it’s the confident directing and writing that brings the whole movie to a crescendo. The plot is ho-hum. The dialogue between characters however is bar none. Whereas Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black’s other brilliant comedy, is very much plot driven with great characters, The Nice Guys is character driven with a good plot. There’s no unnecessary word or phrase. Everything is designed for maximum humor or character creation. It’s also a little easier to access for the lay man.
But nothing I say can really do it justice. It’s refreshingly original while also being comfortably nostalgic. It’s the logical next step in action comedies. It’s not afraid. It’s confident, it’s brash, and above all, it’s funny. Go see it.
3 1/2 out of 4 stars.