Anchored by its leads, The Nice Guys is a hilarious take on the buddy cop movie that is sharp and smart
If 2016 has been lacking in anything, it’s comedy. There have been few hits, critically and commercially, and seemed that more comedies bombed than anything. However, there has been one gem from this year that should stand at the end of this year as the best comedy. I use the word “romp” in reviews a lot, but no movie this year fits the definition of the word more perfectly than The Nice Guys. The film is a no holds homage to the buddy cop movies of the 70s complete with mustaches, lingo, clothes (the costume design is spot on), and topsy-turvy plot. All these factors and two leads whose chemistry will make any other buddy cop duo jealous leaves us with a film that is not only entertaining, but downright hilarious.
The duo at the center of this film has quirks that make them perfect for each other and a terrible mismatch at the same time. Ryan Gosling’s Holland March is a semi-successful alcoholic private investigator who isn’t above taking a job to just make an extra buck — he agrees to help a confused willow search for her dead husband whose urn is perched on her mantel. However, when his job gets crossed with Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healey — whose goodbye after their first meeting is “give me your left arm, and when you talk to your doctor, tell him you have a spiral fracture of the left radius” and then sipping on a yoohoo — he doesn’t realize that he’s going to be his unlikely partner in an even bigger investigation.
Crowe plays the straight man to Gosling’s clumsy, sloppy, high-pitched shrieking March as they come together to investigate the disappearance of Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who is being pursued by a cast of villains (including Matt Bomer in a refreshingly mischievous turn as John Boy). With the help of March’s too-smart-for-her-age daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), the duo finds out that the true subject of the chase is a porn film that reveals a government conspiracy involving air pollution and Volkswagens.
As the plot thickens, the clear star of this film is the dynamic between Crowe and Gosling. They play off each other’s energies so perfectly. When March does something idiotic like falling off a balcony, rolling down a hill, and uncovering a dead body, Healey is there to stand in disbelief of his idiocy. But between the two, Gosling proves himself to be a more than capable comedic actor. He goes from pitch-perfect zingers like “so you’re telling me you made a porno where the plot is the point?” to no-bar physical comedy seamlessly — his character doesn’t seem to stop falling. If anything, watch the movie for one of the best performances of Goslings career.
But another reason to watch is the production value. The movie firmly drops you into the 70s. It even begins with the Warner Bros. logo from the decade. For me, the clear standout is the costume design by Kim Barrett (best known for The Matrix). Her costumes from Healey’s various ridiculously patterned shirts to the gorgeous romper Yaya DeCosta as Tally wears in the final act not only drop us further into the time period, they also keep up the fun attitude the film takes.
In the end, The Nice Guys is nowhere near a perfect movie. It could certainly use a lot of trimming, especially towards the drawn-out third act. The laughs become a bit thinner and the plot a bit of a drag. However, the journey to get there is a delightful — wait for it — romp. Though the crime it focuses on can get serious at times, the characters never take themselves seriously…
March: Look on the bright side. Nobody got hurt.
Healy: People got hurt.
March: I’m saying, I think they died quickly. So, I don’t think they got hurt.
…and you wouldn’t want it any other way. 8/10