The Nice Guys ***

Gutsy and fresh comedy features great chemistry from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

Is it worth $10? Yes

With so many comedies wasting our time with predictable gags and unfunny desperation, “The Nice Guys” is a breath of fresh air: A crass and creative work that dares to be different and exceeds expectations. If you enjoy fresh, original efforts from two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, this is a must see. 

Of all the things that can be faked in a movie, chemistry is not one of them. Often co-leads are serviceably compatible onscreen, though sometimes their seething mutual hatred is palpable (“Fifty Shades Of Grey”). And at other times, as is the case here, magic happens. Seeing Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling interact is like watching two old friends banter with uncanny familiarity, and more than anything love the other’s company. They’ve never worked together before, but I daresay they will work together again.

Of course, it takes mutual respect for them to play off one another so well. Gosling is Holland March, a private eye in 1977 Los Angeles who’s anything but a tough guy, and certainly not “nice” (the title is ironic, in case you’re wondering). At one point he asks his 13 year-old daughter, the precocious Holly (Angourie Rice), if he’s a bad guy, and she doesn’t hesitate to reply in the affirmative. And yet we like him anyway because he’s funny, sympathetic, and played with charm by Gosling.

We soon like Holland even more when he teams up with muscle man Jackson Healy (Crowe) to find a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). For an idea of Jackson’s personality, early on he describes marriage as “buying a house for someone you hate.” Soon after, a flashback shows him getting dumped by his wife in the most shocking way you can imagine (get your mind out of the gutter – it happens over dinner).

So you guessed it: Holland and Jackson are lowlifes, but they deserve each other. And we love watching them together. There’s a scene in which they go up an elevator in the hope of retrieving the film’s MacGuffin. They reach their floor and hear commotion. In perfect unison they look left to see someone choking to death, right to see someone shot, and quietly retreat back into the elevator to head back down. They then continue to be in tune as they look out the elevator window to see a body fall to the ground. Given the gravity of the situation, and that their movements and facial expressions are synchronized in a whimsical, “oh hell no!” type of way, it’s obvious these guys aren’t heroes, they just want to do the right thing and live to brag about it.

If only “The Nice Guys” was more consistently funny, this would really be something. Alas, there are lags in the story and humor, and the middle section of writer/director Shane Black’s (“Iron Man 3”) tale drags when it should continue to sizzle. However, enough of the humor in Black’s script (co-written by Anthony Bararozzi) is so darkly funny and crisp that it feels like a welcome change from most run-of-the-mill so-called “comedies,” and that’s enough to make it a movie you will not want to miss.

Did you know?
Black is currently working on a sequel to “Predator” (1987); production is expected to begin this fall with a March 2018 release planned.

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