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‘The Nice Guys’ Make A Killer Pair Of Silly Gumshoes (Movie Review)

the nice guys thumbAs a writer, Shane Black made a name for himself by scripting many successful mismatched buddy movies. Over time and after stepping into the director’s chair, Black has more evidently become a master of going against what’s expected to the tune of comedic and often times violent irony. The Nice Guys is a perfect embodiment of what we have come to expect from him and it only helps that this comedic caper is plenty clever and entertaining in weaving its silly detective tale.

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We follow two characters who could easily exist in their own crime capers. Russell Crowe is Jackson Healy, an enforcer for hire. He is coming off a divorce and his fifteen minutes of fame, following a heroic incident, have faded. Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a private eye who lives a sad life one day at a time. With his daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) serving as both a secretary and the adult between the two of them, March is making do by taking on seemingly simple cases.

In a different story, these guys may have been aware of each other from the past and reluctantly forced to work together on the same case. The Nice Guys introduces these two to each other by having Healy beat up March and break his arm, only for March to be hired on by Healy the next day. While there are plenty of comic antics throughout the film, it is also plenty violent. Call it the extra touch that producer Joel Silver is always happy to encourage in properties developed by Black.

Set in 1977 Los Angeles, there is a plot here fitting of a Thomas Pynchon novel, but the film really isn’t that interested in it. Basically, a girl is missing and a lot of people involved with her keep dying. Healy and March (and the younger March) stumble into a larger conspiracy, which leads to all sorts of moments that prove March is both a halfway decent detective and incredibly accident prone.

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An early scene sets us up what March is capable of, as he attempts to break into a building, only to cut himself badly on some glass and nearly die from bleeding out. That’s only a taste of the comedic carnage on display, but it is essentially a coating that wraps around a story of redemption. Both March and Healy are losers to an extent and the film sacrifices a quicker pace in favor of scenes that allow these characters to establish exactly who they are and how they can relate to each other.

We also meet a real colorful cast of character types. It is a bit of a shame, as Matt Bomer, Keith David, Beau Knapp and Yaya DaCosta all seem game to enjoy the wordplay exercises Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi are happy to put them through, but the film has nothing to offer them on a deeper level. Sadly, this is most apparent with Kim Basinger, who steps into the middle of this film stiffly and leaves almost no impact. Fortunately this random assemblage of characters do allow for some great scenes between Crowe and Gosling, who are a delight.

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I am not sure if Healy and March will go down as a classic buddy movie pairing in the same way as Riggs and Murtaugh from the Black-written Lethal Weapon, but they certainly have an energy that serves as a good follow-up to Black’s last detective pairing in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer. This time around, rather than trading sardonic and self-aware barbs, Crowe is more the Abbot to Gosling’s constantly shrieking Costello. It’s fun to watch and made all the more effective due to the level of sympathy the film allows us to have for them.

In the grand scheme of things though, this is a film where two guys run around a stylized 70s Los Angeles and engage in a lot of playful banter and shootouts. The plot is never quite as involving as it needs to be, but the film makes up for it by giving us a great pairing and action that allows for lots of comedic consequences. The Nice Guys is not a full-on parody due to the actual seriousness of the core story, wacky characters aside, but the film is happy to take advantage of the amount of fun it knows it can have. Playing on this retro premise, The Nice Guys are not that nice, but they do entertain.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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