Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Nice Guys - Nixon Knows Best (SPOILER FREE)

What works absolutely best for "The Nice Guys", is that even if you haven't seen much (or any at all) of Shane Black's previous works, this movie still feels nostalgic and familiar. It is a true return to the popcorn flicks of yesteryear, and a movie-going experience not matched by any other outing this year (so far).

Starring Russell Crowe as a hired gun (fist?) and Ryan Gosling as a private investigator, "The Nice Guys" follows a murder conspiracy in greater Los Angeles in the late 1970s unraveled by our less-than-perfect protagonists, who, in turn, also play their own antagonists.

What Shane Black has captured so right is the fine balance between comedy and drama in a callback to the buddy-cop movies of the 80s (despite taking place in the 70s). In fact, the 70s setting really adds to the movie, and is done tastefully. It doesn't come off like a caricature of the 70s, or a modern day representation of the 70s, it just FELT like the 70s. It felt like watching Taxi Driver, or Jaws, or any number of movies made in the 70s that weren't so obsessed with their place in time.

Interestingly, this movie doesn't seem to follow a normal 3 act structure, but follows a slightly more complicated 4 act structure that, halfway through the movie, makes you go, "Hey, didn't it say Matt Bomer was in this movie in the opening credits?" On that note, BOY, was Matt Bomer fantastic. I did have to laugh at the fact that they had to give the ultra-handsome guy a huge mole on his face just to make him more evil, but, that said, he was, more than anyone else, a movie-defining villain.

Visual definition in characters seems to be something that Black spends a considerable amount of energy in. Every character in this movie is visually unique, from Gosling's Van Dyke mustache, to Bomer's mole, to Crowe's beer gut and period ambiguous shoes. Each villain looks ready to be made into an action figure, and Black focuses on differentiating them from modern movie villains (see: Evil Suit and Tie Guy) in that they're instantly recognizable.The only time two characters blend together is completely intentional, and crucial to the film's plot.

Of course, as with most movies, there are moments that leave you with a sense of wanting, which can be both good and bad (this movie has both). The best movie-going experience in this reviewer's opinion is one that leaves you wanting more. Yes, the movie has a satisfying conclusion and resolution, but at the end of it, I was ready to buy a ticket to go see it again because I wanted more. The other end of that spectrum, is the fact that there are certain misleading moments in the movie that left me wishing that my expectations for a particular moment were met, though those (very few) moments are vastly overshadowed by the rest of the experience that is this movie.

In an age of cinema over-saturated with shared universes and franchise films, "The Nice Guy" is an extremely welcome return to form for classic popcorn style movies. There isn't another movie out there this year that matches the fun, plot, and originality of this movie.

David Harding is a movie and comic book enthusiast and contributor to the Getting Off Topic Podcast.

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