ReelBob: ‘The Nice Guys’

By Bob Bloom

The long-honored adage that practice makes perfect seems appropriate for screenwriter-director Shane Black.

Black specializes in buddy-action films, a genre that focuses on plenty of banter, car chases, explosions, gunshots and violence — a lot of it brutal and harsh.

Among his credits are “Lethal Weapon,” “Lethal Weapon 2,” “The Last Boy Scout,” “The Last Action Hero,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”

In his newest movie, “The Nice Guys,” Black, who also directs, seems to cull some of the best from his previous efforts to create a raucous and comic confection starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.

Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a hired enforcer with his own, strange moral code. Gosling is Holland March, a so-so, often bumbling, private investigator more interested in getting paid than solving the cases for which he is hired.

The two first meet when Healy breaks March’s arm in an attempt to get him to stop looking for a young woman named Amelia (March acquiesces even before Healy breaks his arm).

Later, after a couple of thugs assault Healy for asking about Amelia, he finds March and hires him to help find Amelia.

(That scene takes place in a men’s room where Gosling — in a stall — performs some very adept physical comedy.)

The plot is rather thin, and the tone shifts rapidly from comedy to violence and back in a rather ungainly manner.

Oh yes, the story: Well, it has to do with murder, the missing Amelia, a porno film and catalytic converters.

The film is set in 1977 and has a garish neon, polyester and paisley tone to it. Abetting the milieu is a funky, ’70s-inspired soundtrack.

The film is at its best when Crowe and Gosling are on screen together. They create movie magic; their collective charisma explodes off the screen.

Basically, they are an exuberant joy to watch.

It also helps that both have a sense of humor and are not afraid to look silly if necessary — and that especially goes for Gosling.

Plus, the two don’t mind being upstaged by young Angourie Rice as March’s 13-year-old daughter, Holly, who seems to have more brains and common sense than the two adults combined.

Amid all the jocularity and mayhem is a tale of corporate greed and political corruption.

“The Nice Guys” is a frenetic and energetic feature that, despite some dark and queasy moments, is fun to watch.

I generally am not a fan of sequels, but I wouldn’t mind spending more time with these not so smart, but funny nice guys.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

THE NICE GUYS
3 stars out of 4
(R), graphic violence, language, nudity, sexual content, drug use

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