Vol. 9, No. 17 – May 25 – June 7, 2016 – Movie Review

The Nice Guys/4 Palm Trees
by Eduardo Victoria/eduardovictory@yahoo.com
 
Watching a Shane Black film is like stepping into the mind of a madman – his films are wildly unhinged, whip-smart and have an unmistakable charm that’s equally obscene yet oddly endearing. All of these things, and more, are in full display in The Nice Guys, Black’s ode to 1970’s Los Angeles noir. As with the director’s most iconic buddy comedies, his latest has more style than most directors can ever dream of, all while subverting the genre and delivering one of the year’s funniest films.
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are comedic gold, an instant big screen duo who play gigantic screw-ups that you can’t help but cheer for. Funnier than most comedies, grittier that most action flicks, and with a seedy plot that contrasts sex, drugs, murder and bad parenting, The Nice Guys’ irreverent insanity will leave you gasping for air and begging for more.
It all begins as a car careens off the side of a road, into a house and down a hill. The deceased driver turns out to be a fading pornstar named Misty Mountains, and it’s her death that sets the story in motion. Somehow tied to her demise is the disappearance of a young girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who’s being trailed independently by two low-life detectives, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling).
Healy is a tough guy who bides his time beating thugs for money, while March is a single dad who’s long been washed up. Before they know it, the two detectives paths unwittingly align and they’re forced to work together before a insidious conspiracy threatens to envelop Los Angeles.
If you’ve seen enough noir, you know that Black isn’t reinventing the wheel here, but he also doesn’t have to – instead, he’s putting every other film in the genre to shame, executing his latest with a breathless barrage of ingenuity, thrills and laughs. If you’re a fan of the genre, this has everything you could ever want – a pair of drunken, lovable loser detectives, a murder mystery, car chases and smoky, extravagant parties, only given to us in a way that seems fresh and earned. The film’s biggest asset, of course, is Black’s uncanny ability with payoff.
From minute to minute, the film never skips a beat, blending its twisty reveals, gags, action and character work through buildups which pay off in wildly unpredictable ways. We barely have time to recover from a joke or revelation, before it leads to an even bigger punch line or an action sequence that hilariously focuses on the awkwardness of each encounter and the quick decisions our characters are forced to make.
Even then, the action is its own beast, a refreshing mixture of ballsy, well-timed stunt work that rejects the current sameness of generic CGI explosions to focus on intricately crafted gunfights, brawls and vehicular mayhem, all of which are never redundant and take us around a nostalgic trip through 70s Los Angeles. As if that weren’t enough, the film’s grit takes a few unexpected dips into the surreal, making for a film that just has to be seen to be believed.
 
Rated R. 116 minutes. Now playing at Century 10 Downtown.
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