It’s less a matter of intelligence and more a matter of honour. And money. And free drinks handed out by strippers at the job site… Okay maybe a little less about honour. But finding runaway Amelia and whoever killed 1970’s adult film star, Misty Mountains, is top priority for this single dad and eternal bachelor duo. It feels really good to see a successful buddy cop hit theatres again. One guy’s mean, the other is useless, one’s got issues, the other’s a closet alcoholic, and both would completely miss their mark if it weren’t for the little girl who skipped the lesson on Stranger Danger. Amidst the smoking, the swearing, the naked dancers, the mercenaries, and the need for higher railings on balconies, The Nice Guys rounds everything up nicely with a sense of doing the right thing – albeit a little later than would have been desirable.
March (Ryan Gosling) is a private investigator living case-to-case and charging too much from his clients. He meets hired-muscle, Healy (Russell Crowe), when the latter punches his way into March’s house and intimidates the hysterical squeals out of him… Let me back up.
Healy, who beats people up for a living, gets a job from a girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), and sets out to “warn” the men following her that it would be in their best interest to leave her alone. One of her pursuers is March, who was following Amelia as a potential lead in one of his cases. Now she’s disappeared. It doesn’t take long to feel like something weird is hovering around this Amelia girl. After a pair of thugs attacks Healy in his apartment due to his involvement in her affairs, Healy decides to team up with March and track her down together. They’re determined to get to the bottom of whatever deadly conspiracy is wrapped around Amelia, a dead porn star, the American auto industry, and an “experimental” film that’s never going to get past marketing.
We’ve seen Ryan Gosling in a lot of different, handsome roles, but The Nice Guys adds a whole new square to his cinematic quilt. March is, honestly, a total wimp. This chain-smoker with a running tab at every bar in L.A. is a good detective only by accident. He doesn’t uncover clues; they place themselves across his path. His daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), meanwhile, is the saving grace of his business and life in general. But even with such a swell gal under his wing, no one’s ready to nominate March for Father of the Year. What do you say to the girl who follows you to an “adult” party then proceeds to crack open your dead-end case? “You’re grounded… and thanks, sweetheart”? Holly takes much better care of March than he takes of her, but it’s hard to miss his fatherly devotion to this little rock. It is his duty to teach her proper English (and stuff) as best he can, and hunt down whoever’s kidnapped her (time and time again). In a strange kind of kaleidoscope perspective, Holly is like the Robin to March’s alcoholic, just-winging-it, borderline suicidal Bullwinkle.
Healy, meanwhile, is in desperate need of group therapy. Crowe is just as on point in The Nice Guys as Gosling, only to a much harsher extreme. March faints at the sight of blood and screams before getting punched, while Healy is usually the guy doing the punching and the bleeding. Still, there’s something in Healy’s past that’s never quite explained. The Nice Guys feels like the tip of a very large, highly vulgar iceberg that none of the other icebergs want to float around with anymore.
And that’s just it. There is so much material to cover in the present that mountains of backstory get left behind. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; The Nice Guys doesn’t need to tell the whole story because the whole story isn’t crucial to the Right Now. All the information we are handed is hard-earned and seriously layered – like a dangerously thick tiramisu. Each important clue comes after a certain amount of backpedaling and Holly winding up in an age-inappropriate situation. The story is very detailed and a little hard to follow, with the final answers coming at you like a swarm of hostile bees; but it’s all a ploy to encourage the viewer to watch The Nice Guys again with the aim of snatching up a few more details.
Personally, I would go back for the laughs. Gosling and Healy are gloriously imperfect. March’s drunken shenanigans mixed with Healy’s dry violence makes for a hilarious combination. The Nice Guys is a fabulous one-liner movie that I will be happy to quote out-of-context all week long.
The Nice Guys is hilariously wrong in so many ways it makes it beautifully right. It’s violent, quick on the act but slow on the thinking, it pushes the boundaries of child endangerment, but all the while it just seems to work. You’ve got to dance it out like it’s 1977: protest, smoke, let your kid drive the car, go to a body paint party, and pass out in the pool. Live a little. The Nice Guys is a comedy-action to definitely catch this season. It’s a 7.5/10.