'The Nice Guys' is fun romp through the seedy side of '70s L.A.
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THE NICE GUYS
Where is it playing?: Parks Plaza, Movies Lompoc
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $Full price
What's it worth?: $Matinee
Lethal Weapon (1987) writer Shane Black (who also wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) co-writes and directs this action comedy set in 1977 L.A. about a pair of mismatched private detectives who reluctantly team up when they find they’re working on the same case. Licensed P.I. and single father Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of fading porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) but crosses paths with not-so-licensed enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Their investigation soon discovers there’s a mysterious girl named Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) and a criminal conspiracy involving the auto industry that reaches the highest echelons of governmental power. (116 min.)
Editor’s note: This week, Executive Editor Camillia Lanham filled in for Anna Starkey.
Glen A couple of years ago, Paul Thomas Anderson brought author Thomas Pynchon’s 1970s psychedelic detective story Inherent Vice to the big screen. It perfectly captured the drug-fueled ’70s to a tee. Likewise, The Nice Guys captures a similar, albeit less stoned, segment of seedy ’70s L.A., this one revolving around the porn industry and the counterculture. The story devolves into ridiculousness, and the mysterious Amelia (Qualley) turns out to be a bit of a red herring, but the real fun is the chemistry of the two leads and the relationship between March and his smart and resourceful daughter Holly (a precocious Angourie Rice). Crowe’s Healy is a bruiser but a thoughtful one with his own code of ethics. If someone pays him to break an arm, he’ll break it, but he’ll also leap into danger to right a perceived wrong. Gosling’s March is a hustler who’ll string along a desperate client for more money but who’s also deeply devoted to his daughter and haunted by his wife’s death. Each character brings important skills to the investigation, skills they’ll need as they face off against a series of thugs working for various criminal elements. It’s a boob-and bullet-filled comedy of errors that after a slow beginning manages to heat up into an entertaining buddy caper.
Camillia I’ll have to admit, I was pretty worried when the film first started rolling. I thought it was going to suck. But boobs, booze, and a couple of off-color jokes that missed the mark quickly turned into an entertaining and funny slapstick-action flick that I was happy to spend a Sunday afternoon watching. Think Starsky and Hutch (the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson version), but better. Gosling, ever the charmer, and Crowe, ever the bad ass, played off each other without skipping a beat—from being enemies to being frenemies to the inevitability of bro-dom. The movie rang familiar to the Lethal Weapons I watched as a kid. And Holly almost reminded me of Penny from Inspector Gadget, swooping in to save the day with the bravery and smarts that her dad loses the second he puts liquor on his lips. At least she was a strong female character, unlike all the other women in the film, who were pretty much sex objects. And the polyester suits, paisley print, and high-waist pants were right on the money. However, it was hard to root for the mysterious and super annoying Amelia—the dame that needs saving. I think the film would have been even better if she didn’t say anything at all.
Glen True! As soon as Amelia opens her mouth and starts spouting her antiestablishment rants against “the man,” she sounds like an idiot, and when we discover that her brilliant idea to fight corruption and get back at her evil mom—Justice Department head honcho Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger)—was to create a porn film with a plot about said corruption and then play it at the L.A. auto show, well, yes, it’s super dumb, but the porn film in question gives all the players something to fight over. The big climax finds Healy and March trying to save idiot Amelia from the thugs Older Guy (Keith David) and Blueface (Beau Knapp), government operators Tally (Yaya DaCosta) and John Boy (Matt Bomer), and auto industry head Bergen Paulsen’s (Gil Gerard) army of black suited security guards, who by the way make great bullet fodder! Lucky for Healy and March, most of these guys are terrible shots. The bullets fly and our heroes remain unscathed. Of course, the point of the film isn’t believability. This is a comic romp, a farce, and when it’s all said and done, nobody’s grown, learned anything, or had an epiphany. L.A. is still a seedy sewer filled with degradation. The big difference is there’s a new detective agency in town ready to take on their next case. Instead of a sequel, I’d rather see a story about Holly. She turns out to be the strongest and most admirable character of the bunch.
Camillia Oh come on! There’s at least one epiphany; I just can’t quite think of what it might be at the moment. Could it be that Holly finally has a reason to be proud of her father, who she pretty much rolls her eyes at for the entirety of the film? Nope, that’s not it. Her father’s still a drunk at the end, but at least he’s a funny drunk—not an angry one. Could it be that Holly has gotten through to Healy, healing his dark side with her innocence and love? Nope. I’m pretty sure that was a fleeting moment, and besides, that side is what truly brings out the “complexity” in his character. They saved Detroit, right? Nope. I think the moral of the story is that the world sucks, but you may as well have fun while you’re in it. And I definitely had fun watching them be silly, stupid, and do a little fighting. Dumb jokes and bad parts appear in the movie, but those kind of make it good at the same time. Maybe there’s room for a sequel in Holly. She could grow up to be an ass-kicking detective who turns the lackluster pair into “good people,” but I truly hope they leave this film franchise to just the one movie. I guess I’m just sick of sequels. Although, I do have a serious soft spot for idiot detective stories like this one, so I’d probably watch it anyway.
Send comments to Glen at firstname.lastname@example.org.