The Nice Guys
Every once in a while a movie comes along and takes a tired old genre and breathes new life into it. That’s the case here with the good old “buddy” movie. It’s usually an odd couple thrown together who hate each other at first but slowly grow closer. The buddies are Ryan Gosling, a P.I., and Russell Crowe, who makes a living by beating people up. But he’s not an enforcer for anyone, he’s free-lance and specializes in single-punch takedowns of people such as the 39-year-old man who is striking up a relationship with and supplying drugs to a 13-year-old girl. One punch is usually all it takes. To make things even more fun, the movie is set in 1977 Los Angeles, with all the big hair and hot cars and a disco soundtrack.
Doesn’t really sound like a whole lot, does it? But what writer-director Shane Black does is take a lot of the scenes you’ve seen a thousand times and either stands them on their heads, or finds a new slant on them. It’s primarily a comedy, so there is wryly funny dialogue and weird situations and pratfalls, but the pratfalls are so good I laughed out loud quite a few times. The thing is, I didn’t see any of them coming, and that’s the best kind of pratfall.
Drawbacks: The maguffin is not all that interesting. There is the obligatory scene with automatic weapons filling the air with so much lead that Superman couldn’t see through it, and no one getting hit. And the ending is a little over the top. But even then, there is good stuff. Example: one of the scenes you have seen many times is one where a small woman is pointing a gun at someone, in this case, Russell Crowe. “Have you ever killed anyone?” he asks, dryly. Clearly he’s seen that scene, too. He expects to walk up to her and take the gun away. “Yeah, three people, in Detroit.” He’s taken aback, and you can see him trying to find a Plan B. It’s funny. Then within a minute of that there is another funny scene with Gosling’s precocious and highly dubious (about her dad) 13-year-old daughter, who has a cunning plan to get into the hotel suite where Pop and Crowe are being held at gunpoint. She knocks on the door and calls out “Room service!” And I won’t tell you how that comes out, as I laughed pretty hard at that one. We both recommend this one pretty highly.
BTW: They can do anything with special effects these days. They recreated Hollywood Boulevard as it was in 1977. We lived there for some years, and I can guarantee you that very little you see in those shots is real. And they brought back the smog! I know, the air in L.A. is never going to be exactly what you would call healthy, but these days it is infinitely better than it was in 1977. It was even worse in 1967, when I first arrived there. I remember being downtown and looking down Broadway, being unable to see more than about three blocks. You felt you could probably dish the air out with a spoon. So every long shot we see of L.A. is swimming in thick smog. How do they do that? I dunno, but it’s great.