Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Overlooked Movies: The Nice Guys (2016)

Chemistry. It’s when two things go together that can make something greater than the whole. Sometimes, chemistry can help you fall in love, maybe get married. Sometimes, bad chemistry can do the opposite. Then you get the chemistry of two actors you’d likely not put together and you get gold.

The Nice Guys star Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. It’s a crime story/buddy comedy/neo-noir movie set in the the 1970s that’s definitely at home with the summer crowd. I love superhero movies as much as the next guy, but there was something refreshing about seeing a movie like The Nice Guys when it was released in June 2016. It’s counter programming for the summer.

The Plot May Sound Standard...

If you’ve seen almost any Shane Black movie, you know what to expect. Russel Crowe plays Jackson Healy, an enforcer, who all but hates himself for the job he does. But he’s good at it and effective. Private eye Holland March (Gosling) is down-on-his-luck (natch) and an alcoholic (also natch). He has a philosophy of how he treats his customers (read: get as much as possible) but he’s also a bit of a wimp. That particular brand of character is somewhat unique in movies like this. Well, the wimp part, that is. His wimpiness becomes evident whenever he sees blood as that typically makes him sick. The two initially meet when Healy is asked to pay March a visit. This part’s in the trailer so it’s not a giveaway to say that Healy fractures March’s arm.

...But the Actors' Chemistry Make the Movie Awesome

It’s in this initial scene where the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling blossom. Their tet-a-tet is instantly charming and the small Sunday night crowd at the theater laughed out loud all throughout the movie. As you could imagine, the case March is working on—the disappearance of an adult actress named Amelia—gets tied back to a job Healy is working. Healy’s the character with a conscience and he ends up hiring March to find Amelia.

Hilarity ensues.

If it’s a Shane Black movie, you know the dialogue is spot on and sharp as a whip. I’m not sure which Hollywood executive decided that Crowe and Gosling would be good together, but he or she deserves a bonus. The chemistry of the two actors is remarkable. In a different age, you could see them guest host a variety show.

But where Black diverts from the norm is in having March be a single father. Holly March, played by Angourie Rice, is a precocious twelve-year-old who has become her dad’s partner. The addition of her is icing on the cake. She actively helps her dad through this story, at times getting into trouble and at other times being the quick-thinking extra set of eyes the story needs. The repartee between her and Crowe and Gosling is a thing you didn’t know you wanted but are so glad you have.

There are lots of great little moments I won’t spoil here, but I will point out one of my absolute favorites without giving any context. Remember when I said that March has a thing about seeing blood? Well, this being the neo-noir movie it is, blood is present. But in one scene, Gosling channels Lou Costello (as in Abbott and Costello) in his attempt to signal Healy. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when Costello say, sees the Frankenstein monster (in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) and can’t get the words out to yell for Abbott. Instead he just loses his voice in a soft whisper. That’s what Gosling did. Everyone in the theater was in stitches.

Speaking of stitches, my wife and her sister went with me to the theater. Based on the red band trailer, they were unsure if they'd like the film. When I mentioned to my wife that Black was the same guy who wrote "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," that got her more interested. We walked out of the theater with smiles on our faces.

The Nice Guys is a terrific film and highly recommended. And, after three years, where in the world is the sequel?

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