Hi, I'm Collin Sherwood Elwyn, and I'm here to talk to you about a lofty social issue that you've undoubtably been pondering of late; what movies should I pay to actually see in theaters? With streaming services beaming so much media directly into our homes, it's becoming harder and harder for the average person to get up, drive to their local theater, and fork out $12 in order to watch a movie that will be right at their doorstep if they just wait a couple months. There is, however, a remaining sentiment that some movies, wether they star superheroes, dinosaurs, or Vin Diesel, must be seen on the big screen. Hollywood is well aware of this, and over the last decade or so has drastically reduced the production of 'middle ground' movies, aka anything with a budget under 150 million dollars, or without a chance at winning an Oscar. Many have complained about the supposed death of the 'adult movie,' but their disappearance has everything to do with people's growing desire to enjoy their films while parked on the couch. With every dollar we spend at the box office, we cast a vote for big wig executives to make more of that type of movie, which brings me to my plea. Please, if you have any interest at all, vote for The Nice Guys.
Set in the scuzzy, neon-tinged underbelly of late 70's Los Angeles, the film follows two men who do just about everything in their power to negate the movie's title. We first meet Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a particularly heavy heavy who, by his own description, beats people up for money. One such business transaction brings him to the home of Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a low-rent Private Eye who's decidedly more adept at cashing his checks than finding his marks. The meeting goes poorly (for Holland anyway), but a series of circumstances find the unlikely pair working together to find a missing porn star who may or may not already be dead. Cue the rapid-fire wise-cracks, gloriously tacky costumes, and rollicking retro soundtrack.
Only three feature films into his directorial career, Shane Black's stamp of authorship is about as bold as anyone working in movies today. Having made a name for himself by penning the Lethal Weapon series, Black has doggedly remained in his own hyper-specific wheelhouse, even highjacking the Marvel machine for over two hours and morphing Iron Man 3 into yet another smart-alecky buddy cop flick. The one true modulation this one makes to the formula is in its historical setting, and since the 70's has become our generation's default era for the Noir genre, all of that grooviness fits Black like a glove. The zippy camera movements and exhilaratingly hard cuts that have always been featured in his work feel more at home than ever before, and pair seamlessly with the movie's impeccable costume and set design.
He's also a great director of actors, and The Nice Guys extends his streak of wedging two terrific performances into one movie without ever clogging up the system. Crowe needed this role more than perhaps any active American actor, having squandered much of his good will over the last few years by only accepting the most serious parts imaginable. One wouldn't exactly call him light-hearted here either, but the vibe of the movie and the performances that surround him turn the Oscar winner into an ideal straight man. Gosling couldn't be more crooked if he tried, and while the movie affords him the lion's share of the funniest moments, what he does with the opportunity is astounding. The way he rattles through Black's dialogue is to be admired, but the bigger take away is just how gifted Gosling is as a physical comedian, his innumerable ticks and mannerisms worth the price of admission on their own. Many have already compared his Holland March to a Buster Keaton character, but I'll go less lofty with my comparison, and simply claim that this is the most laughter a hollywood superstar has coaxed with only their movements since Leonardo DiCaprio made that ill-fated crawl across the parking lot in The Wolf of Wall Street. Truth be told, I can't come up with anything negative to say about The Nice Guys; it's engaging, humorous, stylish, and, most importantly, is the most pure, undiluted fun I've had at the flicks in well over a year. This election year, I'll be voting for Shane Black.