Film Review 2017 - #14 The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys (2015)

Ah! At last! A good old-fashioned buddy movie, with knowing laughs and a crazy plot and top-flight actors doing their thang.  No need for anything meta, just settle back and enjoy the ride.

Russell Crowe! All bulked-up and cuddly, except he’s brutal and violent, but he cares about children and animals and he can’t believe what an idiot Ryan Gosling is.

Ryan Gosling! All gorgeous and useless, a clumsy and accident-prone private investigator, only interested in the money and ripping off old ladies except – duh – he too has a heart of gold and he looks after his daughter by bringing her along on the job.

And what a job it is!  It’s the 1970s, so the music is great and the colour is slightly orange and a porn actress has died in mysterious circumstances.  Then the guy who shot the porn film is killed and his house is burned down and then some other people involved in the same film are killed and the ONLY COPY OF THE FILM IS DESTROYED and maybe there’s something more important than porn in the movie and maybe there’s a conspiracy and maybe there's another copy of the film and there’s only one person who worked on the movie left alive who might know the answers… And the chase is on: can the two buddies (and the daughter) get to the girl before the baddies?

All the old tropes are here, but are delightfully and playfully usurped.  Car chase? Well, yes, except Gosling is a rubbish driver and then gets his arm broken so his thirteen year-old daughter has to drive.  Shoot outs?  Yes, so let’s give the baddie an entire arsenal of assault weapons so that he can, in a single two minute scene, fire so many bullets that the house is destroyed and a tree is chopped down and NOT A SINGLE BULLET HITS EITHER OF THE BUDDIES (or the daughter).

Cue, too, the alcoholic private investigator, always either drinking or about to drink or having just finished a drink.  Normally, said investigator is impervious to the booze and continues to flirt, fight and solve crime with impunity; in “The Nice Guys”, the Gosling character is often so drunk he cannot actually speak coherently and on more than one occasion simply falls down because he is so pissed.

The trope I enjoyed most, however, was the film’s use of ‘coincidence’.  Regular listeners will know how much I dislike the use of coincidence in fiction (it’s a hangover from my adolescent fury at Dickens).  Oh look – I just found a vital clue.  Oh look – the person we were chasing is just over there.  Oh look – my gun has jammed/the phone rings/there’s a knock at the door/a minor character has entered the room just at the moment required to enable the rest of the scene/plot to function.  Bah.  It’s cheating.

In “The Nice Guys” the coincidences come thick and fast, so much so it’s clear they are doing it deliberately (and here we could get meta if we wanted to, but it’s just not that kind of movie) and just when you think the coincidences have reached a screaming pitch of ridiculousness (it’s when the girl simply falls from the sky onto the buddies’ bonnet) the film has one last trick up its sleeve… which I won’t spoil, except to say I didn’t see it coming and I laughed very loudly indeed.

In fact, I laughed out loud several times during this film.  I enjoyed the silly story, the great acting, the characters (especially the Gosling-character’s daughter), the costumes, the works.  (I even enjoyed the ridiculous information on the front of the DVD that this film comes from “the director of Iron Man 3”.) Most of all, I enjoyed how self-aware the film was.  Everyone involved knows that they are involved in something that’s pretend, being watched by people who know it’s pretend and by people who have seen many other movies before.  I had steeled myself for a film that – like the remake of Flight of the Phoenix – would try to take itself too seriously, even as it was being funny.  Instead, I got to watch a film that was not only funny, but was also great fun.


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