- Daniel McFadden
- Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe play Holland March and Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys. | Photo Warner Bros. / provided
The chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is so good in The Nice Guys, you might legitimately hope theyre just hanging out in real life, rolling around Hollywood, occasionally solving crimes.
Set in the 1970s, The Nice Guys is peppered with so many signifiers of the time period that the viewer is apt to yell, We get it! This movie is set in the 1970s!
The film is an amiable action flick hung loosely on the skeleton of a shaggy dog detective story. The drama is low, riding mostly in the background and largely unspoken, with much more focus put on the interaction of perpetually drunk private investigator Holland March (Gosling) and unlicensed tough guy Jackson Healy (Crowe).
But the real driver is Angourie Rice, who plays Marchs daughter Holly. Though its left mostly unexplored, theres a tragic backstory to the March family, including a dead mother and a burned home. Holly, like many teenagers faced with adversity, is trying to cope with her own pain while keeping her father functional.
So its little wonder that shes so immediately taken with Healy, who despite breaking her fathers arm seems to live by some kind of a code. And when he shows up to hire March to find a girl who doesnt want to be found, Holly goads her father into taking the job.
The Nice Guys seems to have no idea where its going, and thats simultaneously a joy and a frustration. True to Marchs description of detective work, theres a lot of driving around, lucking into clues and being largely unable to do anything about anything.
Like many detective movies before it, and in some ways reminiscent of The Big Lebowski, the story starts with a missing person and rolls into something more. The detectives, such as they are, seem the least aware of whats going on. But their single-minded pursuit of Amelia (The Leftovers Margaret Qualley) leads them through shootouts, fistfights, a porno party and so many broken panes of glass it becomes its own comic relief.
Ably directed and co-written by Shane Black, who made his name in Hollywood as the creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Nice Guys is a peppy little trifle. Its a shoutout to the action films of the 1970s and the buddy comedies Black helped popularize in the 1980s and 90s.
It is also juvenile, messy, loud and full of violence and nudity. Its a good time if youre looking for one, but its not going to change your life. This movie seems destined to be a fun way to waste an afternoon while youre folding laundry; its engaging enough to stay interesting, but not so riveting or plot-intensive that you cant grab the socks out of the dryer when you hear the buzz.
Happily, The Nice Guys even sets up its own low-stakes sequel. Will Hollywood finance another slapstick buddy detective flick with two of the industrys biggest stars? That probably depends on how much fun Crowe and Gosling had making the original. Because if this funny little distraction brings in enough at the box office, it wouldnt be hard to imagine seeing The Nicer Guys in a theater in a couple of years.
How Black will find more material to express that the story is set in the 1970s is the real challenge. Theres only so much Yoo-hoo, lines of cars waiting for gas and clashing patterned shirts to go around.https://youtu.be/MxW4LZCYfvs
Print headline: Nicely done, The Nice Guys doesnt break any new ground, but its an amusing action flick from two of Hollywoods biggest stars.