Sunday, April 2, 2017
The Nice Guys
You're right; those are elements of The Big Lebowski. They're also the elements of The Nice Guys (2016), directed by Shane Black, who ramps up the action, dials down the surreal weirdness of the Coen Brothers, and places more emphasis on the plot. Imagine if the Dude had a 13-year-old daughter and a job and Walter Sobchak was more calm and competent, and you'll have a good idea of what The Nice Guys is all about. It establishes its own quirky identity and packs plenty of laughs.
Our heroes are a couple of 1970s L.A. private detectives: Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a boozing widower with a 13-year-old daughter named Holly (Angourie Rice), and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), an enforcer who uses brass knuckles to beat up people. One of the movie's inspirations is how March is the jerk and Healy is a calm, rather polite professional. They meet when Healy is paid to get March to stop following Amelia (Margaret Qualley). As he beats him up, Healy even tells March which arm bone to tell the doctor is broken. When he leaves, Healy accepts a Yoo-hoo from Holly and genuinely enjoys it.
Things get twisted when Amelia disappears and a couple of thugs (including Keith David) attempt to torture Healy for information about her whereabouts. So, Healy and March reluctantly team up to locate Amelia and get to the bottom of what's going on. It all leads to Amelia's mother Judith (Kim Basinger), a top Justice Department Official; a porn producer; some environmental protesters complaining about smog; and some dealings with Detroit's Big Three Auto producers. And of course, Holly inserts herself into the mix.
March is the kind of guy who won't say no free alcohol while staking out a wild party at the porn producer's mansion and ends up swimming in the pool with the porn star mermaids, but he's just good enough as a detective to be believable. Healy is focused and wants to do the right thing, but he gets his hands dirty and doesn't shy away from being violent. They both make mistakes, they both cause trouble, and deep down, despite the sleazy nature of their work, they're both nice guys. Holly sees the good in both and tries to get them to be that way.
The plot's not too original, but Black knows how to balance the comedy with high stakes. The movie knows when it's time to get serious (but not too serious). Amelia is terrified for her life, and Holly is smart enough to realize when she's walked into a dangerous situation. Shootouts occurs, blood flies, bones break, etc. The action scenes are nothing too special in a post John Wick world, but they get the job done.
And now, I'm suddenly craving some Yoo-hoo.