The Nice Guys taps into the current movie-going public’s love of the Seventies and pays homage, of sorts, to the Private Eye television shows and motion pictures of that era. This is a hilarious comedy that embraces the goofiness of that time-period and revels in its naiveté.
There have been multiple movies over the past few years that have capitalized on the quirkiness of the 1970s, like American Hustle (2013), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), last year’s Black Mass, and this year’s Elvis & Nixon. It’s a trend that began with 1997’s Boogie Nights, and even Guardians of the Galaxy jumped onto the bandwagon to a certain extent.
What’s my theory on the popularity of this genre? Beyond the crazy clothing, incredible hair styles and the awesome music, I think there is also huge nostalgia for the last decade we lived in before cell phones and computers invaded and corrupted our lives. It has to be refreshing for a screenwriter to NOT have to consider social media and modern communication technology when plotting his/her story.
Porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) is killed in freak accident in the Hollywood hills…or is she? Private Eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired by Misty’s Aunt to find the actress, whom she believes is still alive; and heavy-hitting thug-for-hire, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), is recruited by another party to literally knock March off the path.
Our two reluctant heroes eventually join forces, together with Holland’s teenage daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), for wacky misadventures as they uncover a trail murder, sex and deceit in smog-plagued 1977 Los Angeles.
This film also stars Kim Basinger as Judith Kuttner, the head of the Department of Justice; Yaya DaCosta as Judith’s capable assistant; Keith David as an unlucky veteran hitman; Margaret Qualley (who you might recognize as Jill Garvey HBO’s The Leftovers TV Series) as a mysterious Misty Mountains lookalike; and Matt Bomer as a killer who resembles John Boy Walton. (You remember The Waltons, right?)
One can easily see that writer/director Shane Black has some serious love for Seventies’ television; this was also evident in his efforts on Iron Man 3, which played like a crime drama from that era, even though it was set in the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Russell Crowe basically plays the rough and frumpy straight-man to Gosling’s not-so-slick private dick. And who knew the former star of The Notebook had such great comedic chops? He was funny in last year’s The Big Short, but he had me in stitches several times in this new film. The actor has a Lou Costello inspired moment that had me laughing harder than anything I’ve seen at the movies in a long time.
Young Angourie Rice as Holly March (Holland’s daughter) steals the show on several occasions and often, humorously, seems like the only adult in the room. She’s an actress to keep an close eye on going forward.
If you dig Seventies music then you are going to love The Nice Guys soundtrack, which includes tunes from The Temptations, Kool and The Gang, America, and probably the biggest band of 1977, the Bee Gees.
Not everything works in The Nice Guys, and to be honest I’m not certain that every Seventies’ reference actually originated in the Seventies; but I’ll happily sit though the flick again to examine those potential discrepancies. This is one of the funniest and most fun movies of the year. Grade: 8.5/10
Photos © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.