Movie Review: The Nice Guys

From the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the buddy-cop crime caper of The Nice Guys employs a similar approach as its 2005 carbon copy as it packs in a powerful mix of cunning and crudity, set against a colorful landscape of murder and sex. Trading in Val Kilmer's stern private eye for Russell Crowe's grisly man-of-action, and Robert Downey Jr.'s cocky crook for Ryan Gosling's even cockier crook, this shady action-comedy managed to deliver a free-flowing thriller that not didn't simply recycle the plot of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but ultimately offered up an off-kilter -- and highly entertaining -- adventure that never felt too commonplace. 

Within the misty reaches of 1977 Los Angeles, where ill-advised sex and illegal drugs run rampant, the sudden suicide of a once-famous porn star is just enough to get the people talking. When this simple car accident suddenly ignites a string of questions involving a missing girl and a lost filmstrip, the only guys who can solve the case are down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and brutal enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). One a persistent alcoholic, the other a true softy on the inside, the two form an unlikely bond as they dive into the mysterious case. Quickly uncovering an elaborate conspiracy that goes all the way up to the head of the Department of Justice (Kim Basinger), the duo must put everything on the line to find out the truth.

Offering up a sleazy yet undeniably entertaining tale of murder and government conspiracies in the City of Angels, Shane Black's return to the buddy-cop genre managed to not only recapture some of the witty magic of his first film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but also added a tad bit of something fresh with the incredible chemistry between its two leading men. Starring the grizzled tough-guy of Russell Crowe and the comic relief of ladies-man Ryan Gosling, The Nice Guys took the crime caper genre and turned it on its head, offering up a enjoyable slew of satirical and highly sex-fueled investigations. While it may look like a rehash of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or even Lethal Weapon in some light, and the plot may stray into areas of the unusual at some points, The Nice Guys managed to hold my interest far beyond its stylized caper plot.

Once again uniting a motley duo of crook and cop (in some fashion or another) just as he did in Kiss Kiss, director Shane Black managed to not only amplify the comedic timing of rom-com heartthrob Ryan Gosling, but was also able to tap into an ounce of humor beneath Russell Crowe's hardened shell. Stringing these two along a winding case of suicidal porn stars and megalomaniac blue-faced assassins, Black employs a similar tactic of "opposites attract" like he did with Kiss Kiss, pitting an unlikely duo against a single target. While at times it seems like the characters develop simply at the will of the plot -- like Gosling's character's inability to smell in the film -- all that is pretty much looked over when you take the chemistry between the two into account. While the chemistry between the two may be toned down a tad more than Downey Jr.'s and Val Kilmer's in Kiss Kiss, Gosling and Crowe deliver generally memorable performances as two crooks trying to make a living.

Aside from the tag-along daughter of Gosling's Holland March (played by Angourie Rice) -- who offered up both delightful sass and convenient mischief to the film as she followed the leading men deeper into the case -- the rest of the cast was pretty much your typical supporting cast. From Kim Basinger's shady politician to Matt Bomer's psychotic thug hot on the duo's trail, nothing spectacular really stood out from the remaining cast. While Black once again employs a colorful cast of morally-ambiguous characters to populate his crime thriller, it's really only the leading men of Gosling and Crowe you came to see.

Overall, while the plot may dive into strange themes and progress only to keep the characters (and audience) more and more confused, The Nice Guys offered up a worthy popcorn flick to kick off the summer. Steering clear of the massive reboots and superhero sequels that are already infesting the screen, Shane Black returns (mostly) to the humorously-established form of his first feature. Reliant on his buddy-cop formula, along with his sleazy period-piece thriller genre, perhaps Shane Black should stick with films like these, instead on trying his hand at superhero films like Iron Man 3. Memorable and hilarious, The Nice Guys may not be the hit of the summer, but it's definitely something for fans of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon.

I gave this film a 7 out of 10 for its stellar leading duo of the charismatic yet clueless Ryan Gosling and violent yet sensible Russell Crowe, its worthy thriller plot that chugs along even when it's full of itself, and its return to form for Shane Black, who's at his best when he's got two feuding stars and one f***ed case.

Stay tuned this Memorial Day for my review of the highly-anticipated next installment in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse, as well as a breakdown of the best and worst films from its director, Bryan Singer, in this month's Silver Screen Spotlight! Hope everyone has a lovely holiday weekend!    

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