#GAfilm Review: “The Nice Guys” (***½)

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Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in “The Nice Guys.”

“The Nice Guys” jostles your funny bone and warms the part of your heart (the top right half, I think) that stores all your nostalgia. It makes you admire a time, or even a mentality, that you didn’t know you missed. I wasn’t alive in the 1970s and I’m not a violent person, but this is a time/universe I want to occupy (minus the guns and danger), even if only for a day.

It’s indubitably a Shane Black film—dialogue that sizzles and jokes that zing. There’s also some violence, raucous behavior, perfectly 70s outfits, and lots of glorious vinyl. Black directed as well as co-wrote the script with writing partner Anthony Bagarozzi. 1977 is as much a character in this film as its two stars, the moralistically misguided Jackson Healy (played by the talented and surprisingly bellied Russell Crowe) and the shambled mess of a detective, Holland March (Ryan Gosling, handsome even in his drunken stupor).

The plot of “The Nice Guys” takes about three turns too many, and even now, in retrospect, I’m not sure I could fully and accurately relay all the ins-and-outs of this film to you. It all starts with Misty Mountains’ (Murielle Telio) death. She was an adult film star. Her death is, basically, the meet-cute for Healy and March. March was hired—independent from Healy—to find a young, elusive woman called Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Pretty soon, Healy’s desperate to find her too… so, naturally, they team up. A right turn here and two left turns there, and Healy and March find themselves in and between gas-masked protesters, several shoot-outs, a porn-king’s rowdy party, the Department of Justice, and no list is complete without some Vegas gangsters. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues. Make no mistake, Gosling is funny (his physical comedy is particularly and acutely noticeable). Crowe is funny (which is welcome after a series of very serious roles… think “Les Miserables”). And together? They are hilarious. Honestly. Crowe is the straight-laced shoe on Gosling’s too big foot, and it works. They’re complimentary and generous in their humor.

Gosling and his on-screen daughter, a Nancy Drew of sorts, Angourie Rice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Angourie Rice. She played March’s too-wise-for-her-years 13-year-old daughter, Holly, and boy, did she come out swinging. Home runs every single time—every scene she was in was better simply because she was in it. She confidently held her own against Crowe and Gosling; already, barely into her teens, she’s mastered her sense of comedic timing. She delivers her lines with sizzle and punch, and in two years, when they inevitably remake “Kick-Ass,” Rice is going to star. Remember her name, you’ll be seeing more of her.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Mostly because “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” set the bar extremely high. Those three and a half stars are earned on laughs alone, because this is a very funny film. Gosling and Crowe have a chemistry that sparks like fire. So if you want to laugh, go see “The Nice Guys.” If you’re feeling blue or mopey or just looking for some summer fun, go see this movie. If you’re looking for razor-sharp dialogue and jokes that last for days, go see this movie. If you’re looking for cement-solid plot and sensible story, this might not be the movie for you. But really guys, it’s nice.

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