With The Nice Guys, Shane Black returns to what he knows best: two dudes (Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe), a babe (Margaret Qualley), and some henchmen all tossed into a cauldron of bubbling absurdity.
Fortunately, my theater was fairly empty, because I laughed obnoxiously more or less throughout the entire runtime of this film. The humor is incredibly clever at times (Gosling takes cover behind a oscillating vehicle on display only to jump up and lay down a round of cover fire in the completely wrong direction after having been turned around) and at other times, hilariously moronic (continuous series of Gosling falling down/high-pitched screaming). Gosling performed at the top of his game, flaunting his remarkable comedic chops throughout, perhaps outshining the great Mr. Crowe. As described, he hits every mark and even adds his own flair to the script (classically referring the male reproductive organ as a “schphitz” or a “schphonz”).
This being said, there were very subtle moments where he displayed his well-known ability as a tremendously gifted dramatic actor. One in particular immediately follows him being told his daughter was taken away in “blue face’s” car. His facial expression is that of an angered, yet worried, yet ready-to-do-cold-blooded-murder father that I was amped when he stole the red hot rod and took off after “blue face.” In this being a strong suit of Gosling’s performance, I must critique the film for not taking advantage of this potential big payoff. I wanted nothing more than to see Gosling lay waste to “blue face’s” blue face in that moment, but instead his daughter, Russell Crowe’s character, and unforeseen circumstance culminated in the saving of the day.
Regardless, I absolutely adore this film. Lethally similar to Black’s earlier film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys is even better, which allows me not to care whatsoever about the congruencies. In fact, I would like to think of this film as an unofficial sequel (I would LOVE to see these universes collide in The Nice Guys‘ hinted sequel). Outdoing Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, Gosling and Crowe’s chemistry is simply phenomenal in this film. It feels so natural and they play off each other so well. Although some of the film’s funniest moments were in the trailer (hate that) I still found myself laughing audibly at them. The bathroom stall scene, for example, got a good chuckle out of me despite having seen it a dozen times before on Youtube and IMDb.
In addition, the film did a great job of toeing the line between taking itself seriously and making fun of itself. While the film was an obvious comedy, it was not a full-on satire. At the same time, there were obvious moments where it felt as though the film was being intentionally cliche or childish in order to poke fun at the buddy-cop films of old. Gosling’s “fantastic” revelation that Crowe had misinterpreted the note he found (just after being called the world’s worst detective by his daughter) was such a cliche, at first. It seemed like just when he had let everyone down, he pulled a trick from his sleeve that changed everything, revealing him as good after all. However, I laughed giddily to myself after it turned out that he was completely and hopelessly wrong about everything he had been so proud to be right about.
The biggest and best surprise of this film was Holly (Angourie Rice), Gosling’s daughter. She not only held her own with two of Hollywood’s most talented, but in several instances stole the scenes from them. The film aimed for a dark comedy, yet with some lightness and optimism of tone. This is hard to pull off (Deadpool also did this well this year) and this girl’s performance helped out significantly. She gave meaning to both Gosling and Crowe and made the film a happy one despite its seedy, adulterated humor. The only thing missing from this one is Christmas.