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Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Nice Guys Review: What about the birds, man?
I love almost everything Shane Black has done. Including Iron Man 3 and especially Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The latter is the single greatest movie of all time. I have sources! Key and Peele think so. I can't find the clip, but trust me on this. He has a simultaneous love and disdain for masculinity and you never know if he's going to glorify or kick it in the balls. But mostly he kicks it in the balls with a style all his own. 

After one of my favorite opening shots ever (of the decrepit the 70's Hollywood sign) we might as well be in a foreign country. That decade was gaudy, drug addled, and hideous. Only a hard boiled PI story could do it justice. Audio snippets of the sickly sweet ads for "The Waltons" clashes wonderfully with the pastel colored hellscape that is 1970's Los Angeles. And indeed, the set design almost makes the whole movie. I won't say the city was also a character, because that's hack... but I'd be fine if you made the comparison.
Crowe plays a lonesome old body guard who just wants to do what he's best at and get a little respect out of the bargain. He dreams about becoming a PI so he can finally go legit. But Gosling pops into his life to turn all that into a nightmare.

Gosling (a PI single father) crosses paths with Crowe while on the hunt for a missing woman (who Gosling knows is dead but takes his fee anyway). One thing leads to another and soon they're both pulled into a circus of murder and arson surrounding a single unreleased pornogr- uhhh... art film. The story's just a goof. It's solid but don't peek behind the curtain too hard. It actually makes a lot more sense if you've seen "Who Killed the Electric Car?" but I digress. The film is entirely character driven and all the better for it.

Crowe is the soft spoken straight man to Gosling's panicky lout of a PI. He has an arc over whether or not he can be both a killer and a "good" guy. But this is the Ryan Gosling show and he mostly stays out of his way. I don't care what you thought of Ryan Gosling before this. I don't care if you hated Drive, this is a comedic performance that's once in a generation. This is a Gene Wilder level mastery of humor and pathos. Holland March is an all time comic drunk. A man who lost half of everything he had and knows he will never get any of it back.

There's real sadness behind his eyes in every scene and it's honestly what makes it so funny. He has real talent for investigation but can't shake the drunken monkey on his back. The highest comedy beats of the film all stem from him coming so agonizingly close to cracking the case and then failing masterfully. He's somehow the most lovable deadbeat dad possible.
In Shane Black-land... it's Christmas every day.
His daughter, in a career maker performance by Angourie Rice, is an emotionally scarred Nancy Drew stuck in a Lethal Weapon mystery. Hi-jinks. Ensue. It's rare you see a young actor this frikkin' natural and even rarer to have a story that gives her so much to do. She's kinda her dad's chauffeur seeing as he's a step away from blacking out at any given moment. Every time you think she's going to bring the buddy cop vibe down, she only grounds it. Because seriously, how many noir detective stories pretend kids don't exist? 

Amidst all the family drama, gun fights, pithy rejoinders, and all the gory visual details of Carter era California; this movie transcends being just another buddy cop joint. It's the rare flick that's smarter than it wants you to think it is. I personally had to be shushed by the couple next to us. That's how much it got to me. It's not the best movie I've seen this year (I sincerely hope Zootopia gets a best picture nod) but there just ain't nothing like a Shane Black picture. They may have finished last at the box office but there's no better time at the movies right now. Go. GO!
The hell are you still doing here?!

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