Nice, Guys

 

If you’re like me, you’re a sucker for vulgar comedies with smart-aleck, down-on-their -luck manly men whom America don’t love no more (not that these men care, of course). This isn’t all that rare, for American insight is often democratized. Shane Black — one of a few Hollywood writers worth much more than they’re making — is back in the movie business with the thing he loves best: The action-comedy. And in The Nice Guys, he’s shown noir done right.

theniceguys

Black made his fame writing Lethal Weapon in 1987, but self-destructed about a decade later. Between that first rise and fall, he acted in movies like Predatorwrote one of my favorite movies for kids, Last Action Hero — which includes the basic insight into Hamlet we all need — as well as The Last Boy Scout, which featured Bruce Willis’s second-best noble loser role. There were lesser achievements, too, but he was brought low. Then, in 2005, he directed his first movie, Kiss Kiss Bang Banga delightful mockery of LA noirs that revived Robert Downey, Jr.’s career, almost did the same for Val Kilmer’s, and launched that of Michelle Monahan, who looked like Miss America (I don’t mean a pageant). In 2013, Downey returned the favor to Black, helping him land the job to direct one of the more bearable blockbusters, Iron Man 3.

The Nice Guys is about 1970s LA and America: pornstars, hippies, the Big Three automakers, strange music, strange clothes, corruption, recession, and a country in a vaguely suicidal mood. Men are at their lowest and it’s not clear what’s left for manliness. Enter a vaguely dandyish private investigator named Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and a vaguely moral muscle-man named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). The former shows real comic chops while the latter does a great job as the straight man. The bad guys are appropriately hair-raising and there is a girl who could not be sweeter, but who is too world wise to be thirteen.

Initially antagonists, March and Healy are both looking for a missing girl amidst of fog of mayhem, drugs, and murder. So far, so good, but the film delivers one surprise after another. The 1970s are portrayed in all their colorful vulgarity, with American freedom at its most confused, at least up until our own times.

The visual comedy and the staging are both excellent, the editing is hilarious, and the film has the guts to risk everything on two actors very much worthy their salaries. Gosling does clumsy comedy expertly, and Crowe is brilliant as an overweight, over-the-hill manly-man who — spectacles aside — is still plenty tough.

The plot is convoluted and attempts to figure out how chance and hard work go together, and what they say about American manliness: specifically, how manly men may take pleasure in beating up bad guys, but how America might need them, regardless. It shows wit at work in the best American tradition, aiming to be popular, but also setting the standards of what should be popular.

I’ve very mixed feelings on the meaning of the film but, for now, I’ll leave it at saying that this is the most fun you’ll have in a movie theater this year. If you ever liked buddy-cop comedies, The Nice Guys is what you’ve been waiting for. I was a bouncing baby boy in the fight against capitalism when Shane Black first made it in Hollywood and this is the first time I see an action-comedy in the theater. It’s everything people said it would be.

Published in Culture, Entertainment
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 65 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    I had no idea Shane Black was so old.

    The name ‘Shane’ just screams ’20-something hipster’ to me, for some reason.

    I feel shame.

    • #1
  2. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Misthiocracy:I had no idea Shane Black was so old.

    The name ‘Shane’ just screams ’20-something hipster’ to me, for some reason.

    I feel shame.

    Grew up on ’70s films is how old he is & now he gets to make one. I guess that’s also part of American freedom. I think it’s a pretty cool name, but I grew up on these blue collar action movies, worlds away from hipster stuff…

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Titus Techera:

    Misthiocracy:I had no idea Shane Black was so old.

    The name ‘Shane’ just screams ’20-something hipster’ to me, for some reason.

    I feel shame.

    Grew up on ’70s films is how old he is & now he gets to make one. I guess that’s also part of American freedom. I think it’s a pretty cool name, but I grew up on these blue collar action movies, worlds away from hipster stuff…

    Oh, indeed. I had no idea Iron Man 3 was directed by the guy responsible for some of my favourite movies.

    Love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

    • #3
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Sounds like the kind of picture I would have projected on Times Square during the actual Seventies, so I’ll have to go see it!

    2500 3D 189_r

    • #4
  5. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Gonna see it this weekend.   Will report back.  Do people still go to movies?

    • #5
  6. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Hopefully better than Starsky and Hutch :)

    The poster lettering is reminiscent of another era-of-the-70s flick, Boogie Nights.4854_boogie-nights-1997

    • #6
  7. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    I saw it on Monday.

    I agree whole-heartedly that the leads are excellent, as are some of the smaller parts. The first hour is, really, really solid and there’s a lot to love in this movie.

    By the second act, however, I felt like I could see all the strings: the dialogue was trying too hard to be witty, and the plot went from gumshoeing to massive conspiracy in a very silly way.

    This is unfair as I’ve only seen The Nice Guys once, but I can’t imagine it compares favorably to LA Confidential, which it makes overt homages to repeatedly (setting, the casting of Crowe and Bassinger, etc.). Confidential’s plot holds up incredibly well on multiple viewings and this… just gets messier and messier.

    • #7
  8. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    I saw it Monday as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I left the theater thinking that I’d like to see it again soon. It seems like a movie where there are a lot of things I’d notice on a second viewing where I’m not really focused on the plot. I felt similarly about the Big Lebowski.

    • #8
  9. Chuck Enfield Inactive
    Chuck Enfield
    @ChuckEnfield

    Misthiocracy: The name ‘Shane’ just screams ’20-something hipster’ to me, for some reason.

    I can only think of Alan Ladd.

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Mark:Gonna see it this weekend. Will report back. Do people still go to movies?

    They recently opened a theatre in my town with a liquor license.

    I see way more movies now.

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Salvatore Padula:I saw it Monday as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I left the theater thinking that I’d like to see it again soon. It seems like a movie where there are a lot of things I’d notice on a second viewing where I’m not really focused on the plot. I felt similarly about the Big Lebowski.

    Most comedic Raymond Chandler knock-off flicks are like that.

    Big Lebowski

    Fletch

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

    The Zero Effect

    I love this whole genre.

    • #11
  12. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Misthiocracy:

    Mark:Gonna see it this weekend. Will report back. Do people still go to movies?

    They recently opened a theatre in my town with a liquor license.

    I see way more movies now.

    I spent $120 at the movies Monday. I saw one film.

    • #12
  13. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Chuck Enfield: I can only think of Alan Ladd.

    I went with Shane MacGowan.

    • #13
  14. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:I saw it on Monday.
    This is unfair as I’ve only seen The Nice Guys once, but I can’t imagine it compares favorably to LA Confidential, which it makes overt homages to repeatedly (setting, the casting of Crowe and Bassinger, etc.). Confidential’s plot holds up incredibly well on multiple viewings and this… just gets messier and messier.

    LA Confidential is one of my favorites.  First time I can remember seeing Russell Crowe and he was just so good, as was everyone else and the movie looked great.

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Are there any superheroes in it?

    I might go see it if there are no superheroes in it.

    • #15
  16. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Percival:Are there any superheroes in it?

    I might go see it if there are no superheroes in it.

    Crowe has put on some weight. He’s built a bit like the Hulk, but you should be okay.

    • #16
  17. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Mark:Gonna see it this weekend. Will report back. Do people still go to movies?

    This is one of the few movies getting good reviews – many are tanking and Hollywood execs are in a panic! We may go see it too –

    • #17
  18. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    Saw it,liked it, not as good as Kiss Kiss but good enough. Didn’t pick up on the manliness thing, but I look for it on a rewatch.

    However, I am now ready for Shane Black’s Predator 4.

    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Mark:Gonna see it this weekend. Will report back. Do people still go to movies?

    I had a dinner & movie date, but with a post-modern twist. My young miss got to the mall before I was really done with tutoring, so by the time I got there, I was treated to a burger dinner & a movie. Now, I don’t say no to burgers, but I noticed the role reversal.

    I was surprised–pleasantly–to see that particular part of the multi-cine-plex, whatever they call it, more than half full. The movie has not been a success, because it’s nowhere near the childish sensibility of latter-day movies, but folks had a good time. There were laughs a-plenty & it wasn’t just me, either. Come to think of it, at the end of the show I did feel like apologizing to the folks in the environing seats, because now & again I overdid the laughs…

    • #19
  20. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Mister D:Saw it,liked it, not as good as Kiss Kiss but good enough. Didn’t pick up on the manliness thing, but I look for it on a rewatch.

    However, I am now ready for Shane Black’s Predator 4.

    Me, too! I’ll do a review more to do with the plot–what it is that keeps these guys going when they make a living doing stuff that people think is worthless or lowly–why should they be so eager to have a cause to fight for when they could instead do whatever it is everyone else is doing–how come they don’t give up & become productive citizens instead of being sulking, self-destructive men…

    Come to think of it, the trouble with American men who cannot work their way to dignity seems like a rather important thing to think about…

    • #20
  21. Mister D Member
    Mister D
    @MisterD

    Titus Techera:

    Mister D:Saw it,liked it, not as good as Kiss Kiss but good enough. Didn’t pick up on the manliness thing, but I look for it on a rewatch.

    However, I am now ready for Shane Black’s Predator 4.

    Me, too! I’ll do a review more to do with the plot–what it is that keeps these guys going when they make a living doing stuff that people think is worthless or lowly–why should they be so eager to have a cause to fight for when they could instead do whatever it is everyone else is doing–how come they don’t give up & become productive citizens instead of being sulking, self-destructive men…

    Come to think of it, the trouble with American men who cannot work their way to dignity seems like a rather important thing to think about…

    I imagine they keep going because a movie needs to run 90 mins to make it into theaters.

    • #21
  22. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Salvatore Padula:I saw it Monday as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I left the theater thinking that I’d like to see it again soon. It seems like a movie where there are a lot of things I’d notice on a second viewing where I’m not really focused on the plot. I felt similarly about the Big Lebowski.

    I thought the same way. It’s hard to remember when last I came out of a theater thinking I should go back to see it a second time. I think the guy’s improved in certain ways as a writer-director. At this point, I don’t know anyone else in American movies who does the kind of visual jokes & physical comedy he does. He’s not as good as they used to be, but when you see his competition–the Appatow school of comedy–it’s not even a competition…

    • #22
  23. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Mister D:

    Titus Techera:

    Mister D:Saw it,liked it, not as good as Kiss Kiss but good enough. Didn’t pick up on the manliness thing, but I look for it on a rewatch.

    However, I am now ready for Shane Black’s Predator 4.

    Me, too! I’ll do a review more to do with the plot–what it is that keeps these guys going when they make a living doing stuff that people think is worthless or lowly–why should they be so eager to have a cause to fight for when they could instead do whatever it is everyone else is doing–how come they don’t give up & become productive citizens instead of being sulking, self-destructive men…

    Come to think of it, the trouble with American men who cannot work their way to dignity seems like a rather important thing to think about…

    I imagine they keep going because a movie needs to run 90 mins to make it into theaters.

    This one runs very close to two hours. I knew it, sort of, when I got out of the theater & out of the damned mall, but it didn’t feel like it in the theater. Mr. Black has only a few moments when he lets you come down for a spell–some of them are rather touching scenes, but others are only there to let you sense some of the underlying gloom. For a comedy, it’s got darker resources, too…

    • #23
  24. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:I saw it on Monday.

    I agree whole-heartedly that the leads are excellent, as are some of the smaller parts. The first hour is, really, really solid and there’s a lot to love in this movie.

    I think one learns something about oneself watching this sort of spectacle. I certainly did–I did love it, & I know I wouldn’t have had I been a more reasonable guy. There’s more going on than really funny stuff. But I don’t think things are coming along just fine, & there’s no cause for men to indulge in self-pity about their predicament men face. I don’t think one could really go along with the story without finding the characters plausible…

    By the second act, however, I felt like I could see all the strings: the dialogue was trying too hard to be witty, and the plot went from gumshoeing to massive conspiracy in a very silly way.

    This is unfair as I’ve only seen The Nice Guys once, but I can’t imagine it compares favorably to LA Confidential, which it makes overt homages to repeatedly (setting, the casting of Crowe and Bassinger, etc.). Confidential’s plot holds up incredibly well on multiple viewings and this… just gets messier and messier.

    Well, this one has a great ambition. It’s trying to reconcile an American audience too attached to manliness to chance while reminding American men that American freedom somehow needs defending.

    • #24
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Ok, so here’s my over-thinking review. It does not include plot spoilers & what have you–that’ll come in the next couple of posts…

    • #25
  26. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Gary McVey:Sounds like the kind of picture I would have projected on Times Square during the actual Seventies, so I’ll have to go see it!

    2500 3D 189_r

    I was thinking that this is the next best thing to your adventure stories. Unfortunately, at some point a story requires a serious reflection on the politics of an era, & this Mr. Black has not achieved, but it’s one of the very few stories set in the seventies I’d recommend, because it’s all about America pulling back from the brink, in an age when people really looked like they were trying to make the worst of ‘freedom means having nothing left to lose.’

    • #26
  27. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Mark:

    LA Confidential is one of my favorites. First time I can remember seeing Russell Crowe and he was just so good, as was everyone else and the movie looked great.

    I must have seen it six or seven times and it’s just a masterpiece.

    The first time was a real treat: my dad and I were traveling together (college hunting?) and he whipped out his laptop in the hotel and said “Tom, I really want to watch this with you.” (I think he figured, correctly, that the movie was not my mother’s speed and that it wasn’t appropriate for my sister).

    It was a great father-son experience. He was gleefully waiting for my reactions at various scenes (particularly the one where Spacey whispers “Rolo Tomasi.”).

    • #27
  28. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Also, if you’re looking to make a great gag while watching it:

    ***SPOILERS***

    As Russell Crowe flops down after James Cromwell shoots him, say “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”

    • #28
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    That sequence–a really touching story & then a witty movie joke–makes me suspect you’re living a double life as a Hollywood script-writer with the ridiculously-made-up name Shane Black.

    • #29
  30. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Much as I like LA period pieces, this movie did not do it for me.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.