Crowe and Gosling mix action and laughs in ‘The Nice Guys’
The Nice Guys
Starring Russell Crowe & Ryan Gosling
Directed by Shane Black
The opening shot of The Nice Guys pans across the back of the iconic Hollywood sign, grimy and tagged with graffiti, as the lights of the city below glitter in the night like a gigantic box of jewels.
After the Temptations set a ’70s groove to “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” we’re off and rolling ourselves on a raucous, retro-rollicking comedy-adventure romp as a pair of mismatched investigators-for-hire (Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling) team up to look for a missing girl (Margaret Qualley of TV’s The Leftovers). But soon they find themselves in a much deeper drama involving porn stars, pinkie promises, menacing thugs, Kim Basinger in full L.A. Confidential mode, and a shocking conspiracy of catalytic converters and high-ranking collusion.
Writer-director Shane Black made his mark back in the late 1980s with the screenplay for Lethal Weapon, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. He went on to refine his format—a high-octane mix of cheeky quips and pulpy, explosive action—behind the camera with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and Iron Man 3 (2013).
The movie takes place in 1977, and it revels in the details of its smoggy, sometimes smutty setting. The background hums with tunes from Kiss, America, Rupert Holmes, the Band, Herb Alpert and Earth, Wind and Fire. Chevy Camaros, Caprice Classics and Dodge Coronets line up for 69-cent-a-gallon gas. Billboards trumpet the hottest movies: Jaws 2, Airport 77. Newspaper headlines spread the dread about killer bees from Brazil.
You’ll recognize versatile character actor Keith David as a villain. Matt Bomer from TV’s American Horror Story plays John Boy, an assassin sharing a certain facial feature with the Waltons TV character of the same name. And young Angourie Rice, 14 at the time of filming, almost steals the show as Holly, the daughter of Gosling’s character. She’s the soft heart of this rough-and-tumble story, the tender conscience in the midst of its outbursts of casual violence.
But the real treat throughout is the pair-up of two actors not known for baring their funny bones. Crowe’s Jackson Healey is a rumpled, jaded tough guy who leads with his fists—often sporting brass knuckles. Gosling plays Holland March as a mopey, bottom-feeding P.I. with a drinking problem and a tattoo that reminds him, “You will never be happy.” Their oil-and-water styles initially clash, of course, but eventually smooth into some major movie mojo. (Pay attention and you’ll even catch their nod to classic Abbott and Costello.)
It all builds into a spectacular shoot-out showdown at a gleaming auto expo, where everyone is scrambling to get their hands on a canister containing a reel of film as it rolls, bounces and spins across the floor, out a window, down a street and into the flames of a burning car. That’s one hot movie, as it turns out, in more ways than one.
And so is The Nice Guys, a juicy, slam-bang action-comedy cocktail punched up, pimped out and powered down with rowdy, new-fangled film-noir fun. Hot stuff—catch it.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine