Once again, I have to give thanks to my "Secret Santa" at work this past Christmas (Thanks Corey!) for this one. What a great present! I hadn't seen THE NICE GUYS (2016) but I'd heard a lot of good things about it. Everything I heard was true. And then some.
I thoroughly enjoyed writer/director Shane Black's KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005), which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog. NICE GUYS follows in that same comic/action/mystery/buddy movie vein and it's one wild ride. While not as meta and self-referential as KKBB (which always let you know that the film knew it was a movie), GUYS takes wonderful and full advantage of it's setting: Los Angeles, 1977. The period detail is spot on: the cars, the clothes, the porn industry (which figures prominently in the helter skelter plot) and a killer soundtrack.
Jackson Healy (a pudgy Russell Crowe), is a low rent leg-breaker hired to protect runaway Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley) from a sleazebag that is looking for her. That sleazebag turns out to be down-and-out private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling), who just may be the world's worst detective. Healy and March clash, Amelia goes missing and suddenly they're teamed up and down the rabbit hole in a search that takes them into both porn and automobiles, two industries that, while on the surface are totally separate, eventually dovetail in the corkscrew plot.
The real pleasure here is the comic performances by both Crowe and Gosling. Gosling is an unexpected delight as a comedian. He channels Lou Costello in one scene and is an overall joy to watch. Ditto for Crowe, These two make a terrific comedy duo and I'd love to see them tackle another case.
The supporting cast is solid, especially Kim Basinger who previously co-starred with Crowe in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997). The action scenes are well staged and everything is brought to vivid, lurid life by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot. Black and co-screenwriter Anthony Bagarozzi's script doesn't always make sense but you're not here for the plot. You're here for the hilarious by-play and shenanigans of Crowe and Gosling.
Shane Black is set to write and direct a DOC SAVAGE film at some point in the near future with Dwayne Johnson announced to star as the Man of Bronze. I hope that Black doesn't play the material for laughs. Some humor, especially the bickering between Monk and Ham, is necessary for the material to be faithful to the source. But I certainly don't want DOC SAVAGE to play like THE NICE GUYS. Time will tell.
In the meantime, check out THE NICE GUYS. A good time is guaranteed.