His resume including four Lethal Weapons movies, it’s no surprise that writer / director Shane Black’s THE NICE GUYS turned out to be a highly entertaining action comedy that I’m looking forward to seeing again, and possibly again after that.
Ryan Gosling is a private investigator battling depression, working on getting his life together with the help of his 13-year-old daughter. On the case in late 70’s seedier-side of Hollywood (see: porn), he crosses paths with Russell Crowe, a thug-for-hire whose client doesn’t want Gosling to find them. After Crowe delivers the message and Gosling vows to stop looking, Crowe reverses field when it becomes apparent that the young woman needs to be kept safe from some bad men on her trail.
The mixing of the young-ish, somewhat-incompetent-when-he-drinks Gosling with the aging, searching-for-purpose loner Crowe works perfectly. To say that it follows too closely to the formula established by the Lethal Weapon films is to not give either film their due. Yes, they deal with partners thrown together by circumstance who don’t always like one another, one of them acting out while battling depression, one of them harboring some unresolved anger issues. But Crowe and Gosling aren’t cops, and neither of them is a particularly “nice” guy – even to one another. But the result is a very funny partnership (a trio, if you include Gosling’s daughter in the film), with some fairly good action. DRIVER fans even get to see Gosling behind the wheel of a car that speeds off in pursuit.
Black does a great job with this R-rated comedy, making it something that should appeal to all age groups from 15-to-65, even though the younger side of the spectrum probably shouldn’t be there, what with the whole “pornography” aspect to it. There’s some full-frontal nudity in the film, and I almost thing they could’ve released a separate PG-13 version of the film that could’ve pulled in some younger audiences without losing too much content.
This is the second great performance in a row from Gosling, following up an excellent job in THE BIG SHORT a year ago. He shines in all facets of his role, meshing the range of emotion nicely as a mostly-functional alcoholic who’s doing a decent job of holding things together for his daughter while he deals with depression. Though his character deserved a bit more backstory and development, Russell Crowe adeptly played the “straight tough” to Gosling’s nearly-bumbling goof, really seeming like he enjoyed dealing out the punishment and then showing internal struggle when young Angourie Rice tried to instill some morals in her dad’s “business partner”. Rice’s performance isn’t likely to earn her a supporting actress nomination like we’ve seen with other young newcomers in the past few years, but she’s certain to have more work coming her way after this. Kim Basinger and Matt Bomer also work nicely into the film, though neither’s role were of any significant length to make it worth seeing because of them.
I don’t know if there is any talk of a sequel, but if Shane Black writes and directs Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in another “buddy
cops detectives” flick, I’ll buy a ticket.
My Rating: 88 out of 100