A Perfect Throwback Film
“They don’t make them like they used to” is an adage thrown around a little too often. Whether it be athletes, politicians, or movies, everyone seems to want today to look a little more like yesterday. While there is definitely some merit in wanting our movies to reflect a simpler time, when reboots and sequels didn’t rule the landscape, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we live in an amazing time to be a fan of movies. With both of those points of view in mind, let’s take a look at one of the year’s best films, The Nice Guys.
Coming off the massive success that was Iron Man 3, writer/director Shane Black has crafted a film that is a total win in pretty much every area. Though he uses modern filmmaking techniques and methods, his characters and dialogue are classic 80’s throwbacks. I’m a fan of progress, so I don’t hold to the “they don’t make them like they used to” mindset of film criticism; but when it comes to The Nice Guys, a massively enjoyable film that is a breath of fresh air in today’s blockbuster marketplace, I have to say it, they just don’t make them like this anymore these days.
The Nice Guys is set in 1977 Los Angeles, so of course it feels like a period piece. More than just the on-the-surface setting, The Nice Guys feels like a movie of the 80’s, totally due to Black’s filmmaking. Though modern audiences know him from Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys show Black’s real skill as he channels the same experience felt in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Last Action Hero, and (obviously) the Lethal Weapon series.
A Modern Buddy-Cop Romp
Like Lethal Weapon before it, The Nice Guys follows the buddy-cop archetype. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a professional private investigator who, while he has a drinking problem and a daughter that he doesn’t take the best care of, is pretty good at his job. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is an individual who is new to the investigative life, but he is right at home in the LA underground as he can hold his own in any type of fight. These two, along with March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), track down clues in a murder mystery, leading them to revelations bigger than any one individual.
The Nice Guys is an absolute delight from start to finish. To be clear, the subject matter is nothing to smile about, the story involves (and portrays) those involved in the 70’s drug and pornography business. That being said, apart from the scenes displaying a messed up dead body, I was smiling from ear to ear the entire runtime of the film. Even in the scene where there is a mutilated body, Gosling’s comedic performance is off the charts and I was still smiling.
Though you would think Gosling is the bumbling character to bounce of of Crowe’s straight man, both of them show off some comedic chops and have incredible chemistry together. It can’t be understated how well these two work together in The Nice Guys. Yes, Black’s script is some amazing material to work with, but both Crowe and Gosling totally deliver on the promise of an emotionally funny buddy-cop movie. Special kudos to Gosling, who though he has been funny in movies before, gives a career best performance here.
Overall Thoughts on ‘The Nice Guys’
I’m just so happy that Hollywood is letting Shane Black make these very Shane Black movies. Very few have the capability to craft an action movie that is equal parts funny and thrilling. Black might just be the best when it comes to directing child actors and actresses, Angourie Rice is really great in The Nice Guys, her character is well written and utilized in the story, while her performance is a cut above her peers. The Nice Guys has a little bit of everything, and it is really good at everything it attempts. Whether it be the jokes, the intrigue, the action, the 1970’s debauchery, or its simple attempt at being a good movie, The Nice Guys is a total win for fans of movies, new and old.