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The Nice Guys

Ryan Gosling is an actor of many talents, on display in movies as diverse as “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Blue Valentine,” and “Drive.”  But who knew he could do physical comedy, too?  Is there anything this guy can’t do?  I haven’t heard him sing.  Can he sing?

In “The Nice Guys,” Gosling is a detective with a daughter(Angourie Rice)  who serves as both a partner and a conscience.  He drinks too much and cheats his clients, and the movie plays coy as to whether he’s actually a talented detective or just occasionally lucky.  Russell Crowe is a tough who’d really like to be a good guy, but finds his talents are more valuable to the other side of the law.

The live in a version of L.A. that is somewhere between “Chinatown” and “The Big Lebowski,” and nowhere near reality. Black peppers the establishing shots with astonishing period detail – Tim Allen is shown twice on the marquee of the comedy club, and I lost about ten minutes of the movie wondering just what kind of material Tim Allen would be delivering at the Comedy Club in the late ‘70s.  It’s that period of time when porn was briefly considered an art form, and according to movies like this one, every pretty young thing wanted to be a porn star.  The movie opens with a  porn star named Misty Mountains dying in a car accident that may not have been an accident after all.

This is one of those movies where it’s probably best not to try too hard to follow the plot and make sure everything lines up just so. (I still don’t know who killed the chauffeur in “The Big Sleep.”  Doesn’t matter.) It has something to do with an electric car, a homemade porn flick, and the Justice Department.  Gosling and Crowe are trying to find a missing actress/activist, but when they do, that’ really just the beginning, or maybe the middle, of their troubles. There’s a hit man named John Boy, and wouldn’t it have been cool if they’d gotten Richard Thomas to play him?  Kim Basinger is pretty awful as the shady D.A. who is behind it all.

Movies like this work best when its protagonists work least – when the whole thing feels somehow inevitable and effortless, when a little bit of curiosity and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong brings the whole house of cards down. “Chinatown” is the best, clearest example, and “Inherent Vice” pulled it off admirably two years ago. “The Nice Guys” doesn’t manage that simplicity. It grinds its gears once in a while, maybe paying too more attention to its plot than it really needs to.

The tone is interesting – it’s not reveling in the sleaze or clucking its tongue at it. Maybe it’s looking for, and believing in, decency in a world where nearly everything is indecent in one way or another. There are shocking moments and graphic violence in “The Nice Guys,” but in the end, it’s what the 12 year old thinks that really matters.

 

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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  1. I want you to say thanks to for your time of this fantastic read.

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