It wouldn’t be right to review a buddy cop movie on this site without putting GHG’s own Geekdom duo on the case. It’s The Nice Guys meet The Fan Guys as “Divine” Derek and “Brother” Myke from The Geekdom Fancast break down Shane Black‘s latest…
Derek: The buddy-cop genre in movies has been around for decades and the reason being because — if done correctly — it provides a wealth of entertainment usually involving lots of laughs with a healthy amount of action.
The Nice Guys is one of these such movies.
Based in 1977 Los Angeles, the movie follows two Private Investigators: a no-nonsense bruiser named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and a dimwitted, yet capable, single father named Holland March (Ryan Gosling). Holland is hired to look into the death of a porn star named Misty Mountains by a family member who claims she’s alive, while Healy is on the trail of a girl named Amelia (The Leftovers’ Margaret Qualley ) in connection with the same case. Jump to circumstances occur where the two P.I.s realize it would be better to work together and our buddy-cop film has been hatched! The film being directed by Black (Lethal Weapon; Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang and Iron Man 3), from a script he co-wrote with friend Anthony Bagarozzi (writer of the upcoming Death Note adaptation), should already tell you that, yeah, this film is definitely in good hands!
Now, we’ve all seen Crowe play his gravely speaking toughguy thing so his casting was pretty easy; but, the part that really makes the duo work is the bumbling idiocy of Gosling. Oh no– you read that correctly! Gosling who tends to play these confident and mature studs as in Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love is a different kind of form this time around. He’s clumsy, naïve, and well, kind of a wussy! Yet, he’s got more than enough charm to be a great, lovable buffoon (he is Canadian in real life so that helps) that makes you want to root for him and Crowe to catch the bad guys.
Another redeeming quality to Gosling’s Holland March is his love for his daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) who, even though is 13-years old, is often tasked with being her father’s driver (daddy tends to be drunk a lot) and works her own magic at getting info out of witnesses. Not to be out done by the two “buddy cops” in her life, Holly doesn’t stay out of trouble as much as they keep trying to sideline her. Rice doesn’t play the role like a whiny child nor is she some ridiculously over intellectual like that brat from Jerry Maguire (admit it, he was annoying), she is used as a tool to help the P.I.s, but also Black writes her in as a moral compass for the film so that the audience doesn’t just glaze over every time another body hits the floor. I’m taken back to when Hailee Steinfeld first came on the scene with Jeff Bridges in True Grit. We’ll be seeing this actress again soon.
Myke: While the pairing of Crowe and Gosling transcends the idea of “good onscreen chemistry”, the merging of a pulpy detective story with Shane Black’s buddy-cop structure highlights the film’s only flaw: the by-the-numbers story. Typically this wouldn’t be too big of a deal. Every villain in the Lethal Weapon series was really just a vehicle to see Riggs and Murtaugh riff their way through spectacular gunfights, but that was because that’s what they did. They were cops. Holland March and Jackson Healy are a little more nuanced and were seemingly set up with the potential to solve their problems with more than just punches and gunshots.
March, especially, is characterized as someone whose hero’s journey would have resolved with the revelation that he was more clever and smarter than you would have been lead to believe, and that at one point a situation would have been diffused because he had already been a few steps ahead. Alas, most of this duo’s biggest wins were the result of Holland March stumbling luckily into a situation and Jackson Healy punching his way out of it, save for the inevitable big detective epiphany moment March has at the end. The story structure is pure 90’s action comedy, almost to a fault. Thankfully, Black does occasionally use the film’s tried-and-true formula and characters to subvert this genre’s most obvious tropes, which provide the film with it’s biggest laughs.
Ultimately, the fact that I wanted more from the story only means that Black nailed everything well enough that I just wish I could have seen more of the world he created. There isn’t a frame of the film that takes you out of 1977 Los Angeles, which is a feat considering all the details in any given sequence. Black doesn’t lazily just emphasize bell bottoms and quaffed hair. He goes as far as to make sure any skyline shot is FULL of smog while billboards and advertisements around our characters highlight non-showy, yet specific 70’s LA references — including an awesome shout out to which headliners would be playing World Famous Comedy Store (and it’s not so obvious as to be “Ricahard Pryor, Bill Cosby, etc”), and much more. Couple that with seeing our characters deep dive into the violently intersecting worlds of post-Vietnam War politics and the golden age of pornography and drug use, and it’s hard not to want to see more than just this one single, albeit well-focused, buddy-detective story. Hopefully Shane Black does what he always do and makes this beast a franchise.
While it’s not as much of fun, plot-twisty ride as Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang was, The Nice Guys is still Shane Black proving that he can hit all his trademark notes in style, and, boy, is it one catchy fucking tune.
The Nice Guys is now in theaters, nationwide.