While his parents sleep, a young boy takes a peek at his father’s Cavalier Magazine, featuring the buxom beauty porn star, Misty Mountains ( Moments later she lays dying at the bottom of the hill, her broken body posed ironically similar to her centerfold. Misty’s last words are cryptic, “How do you like my car?”
After a groovy, retro, neon intro, we are treated to not one, but two voiceover opening narrations. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is an old school tough guy. He’s not a cop, not a licensed investigator, and doesn’t mind breaking the law if it’s for a good cause. In most cases, a good cause being a damsel in distress and a couple hundred dollars. Following a brief example of his grey moral code, we’re introduced to the other title character, Holland March (Ryan Gosling). In many ways, Holland is the polar opposite of Jackson. Younger, less experienced, and a gun packing, licensed P.I., he comes across as more professional and friendly, but is far less concerned with taking advantage of blind little old ladies. In fact, it’s a blind little old lady that causes their lives to collide.
Misty’s visually challenged aunt swears she has seen her niece alive and well after her reported death. Holland takes the case, and instead ends up on the trail of Amelia (Margaret Qualley), a young woman who does not want to be found. Initially Jackson intends to end Holland’s case, but later asks him to continue. For those concerned too much of the plot is being revealed, rest assured this is only the very tip of a seedy, corrupt, iceberg.
With any film, there are a near infinite number of things that can go wrong, damaging the overall tone of the production. It gets even more complicated when mixing a murder mystery with corruption, porn, humor and setting it during an iconic time period. Shane Black is an accomplished writer & director, but he has truly outdone himself with “The Nice Guys.” This neon-noir™ flick gets everything right. The period setting, snappy dialogue, two lovable anti-heroes that screw up as often as they succeed, beautiful women (both damsels in distress and femme fatales), political corruption, and some beautiful cinematography. Well, “beautiful” might not be the best word. It’s gritty, grainy, and pops with neon colors/lights at just the right time.
It may sound like we are describing an edgy crime drama, and while “The Nice Guys” shares a number of similar themes, this is a comedy through and through. Not only is it a comedy, it’s one of the funniest of the past few years! The humor is wisely broad, everything from clever quips, and retro-pop-culture references to hilarious physical comedy. Ryan Gosling steals the show with his various antics, many of which nearly cost him his life.
It’s ironic that films who advertise themselves as “comedies” as so much less funny than a movie that has trouble defining itself in its ad campaign. “The Nice Guys” packs so much into a solid 2 hours, but instead of ending up a diluted misfire we’re treated to a finely tuned cinematic experience that engages your mind & heart as much as the muscles on the side of your face that hurt after laughing too much.
*Note: In the final moments of the film, a character seems to break the 4th wall for just one sentence. It feels as if it is meant to make a point, but the point doesn’t “make sense” given the resolution and current status of the referenced subject. We’re being intentionally vague to avoid any spoilers. If you have ideas on the meaning of this sentence, please feel free to share it in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.