Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Bottom Line: WTF did I just watch? In a good way.
“The Nice Guys” is one of the strangest movies I have watched in a long time. Delightfully so. Its opening is classic film noir with Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) providing the voice over setting up the story behind the newly dead porn star and her out of control car. Jackson Healy is the guy you call when you want other guys to stop doing things you disapprove of. This is normally done with a set of brass knuckles to the face. It’s effective. Healy is contracted by a young woman, Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) who wants him to stop a man from looking for her. That man is Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a private detective hired by the dead porn star’s aunt who swears she saw the porn star alive days after her death. That Holland March would take the money of an old, half blind woman who obviously saw no such thing tells you all you need to know about Mr. March.
The movie starts at a zaniness level of about 3 and slowly pumps its way to 11 by the end. At the beginning, I was all “Oh, this is going to be a film noir set in the 70s with some comedic elements starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling? Win!” and it kind of is that, but a whole lot more as well. The movie has some great dialogue and blends standard humor with some terrific slapstick that you wouldn’t think Ryan Gosling capable of pulling off. But it is Ryan Gosling so you should really know better.
Holland and Jackson are joined in much of their adventure by Holland’s teenage daughter Holly (Angourie Rice, which is an awesome name), who plays both the adult in the Holland/Holly relationship and the conscience of the team. The movie treats Holly as a fully functional human being which is great to see in a movie. She gets kidnapped. She saves herself. She gets put in a life threatening situation, she grabs the hidden gun and attempts to fend off the killer. Hurray for teenage girls not just being used as a plot point!
As the credits ran, I found myself figuratively scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck I just watched. Was this just weird or brilliant? Turns out it was weirdly brilliant. The more I looked back on it and the more I discussed it, the more I liked it. This is a completely different movie and very much worth seeing. The ending kind of sets up the possibility of a “Nice Guys 2” and I hope it happens. There is a lot of chemistry with this sleuthing trio and I wouldn’t mind seeing them back together for another round of zaniness.