Shane Black’s The Nice Guys has achieved an incredible feat. It may very well be the perfect *insert any number of qualifiers here* movie. It’s the perfect summer movie, the perfect Netflix movie, or hangover movie or date movie or… well, you get the idea. Is it the perfect movie? No, it’s not. But it hits that elusive sweet spot of ease, and fun, and intelligent engagement, and more fun. Aren’t we always looking for that movie that can get us to turn our brain off and just have a good time, without asking us to dumb ourselves down first? This is that movie.
Our “nice guys” (who aren’t really nice, but they’re not exactly bad guys, or good guys, or tough guys, or anything else, except maybe some combination of lucky and hapless, so let’s go with “nice”) are Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling), and I think I’m speaking accurately here in saying that I have never liked either of these actors more. Mainly because I don’t think I’ve ever seen either look like they were having this much fun. Gosling, especially— whose character has an odd talent for finding hills and windows to fall off or out of— appears to be having the quirk-ridden time of his life for the entire runtime. He plays a private investigator, where Healy is an almost-official-but-not-really P.I., who come together to investigate a caper’s apex of porn, political corruption, attempted murder of beautiful young scantily clad women, and actual murder of other people, all with a general undercurrent of Healy’s alcoholism. They’re aided by Healy’s daughter, Holly (Holly March), who is a dead ringer for a My Girl-era Anna Chlumsky in an Inspector Gadget’s Penny role: the moral center and consistent brains of whatever operation happens to be happening.
The who’s and why’s of how all the stories collide isn’t entirely important, and in fact the final act of the movie makes it clear that THEY probably didn’t know how everything was going to mesh together. Because again, this is not a perfect film. Things get muddy, and unnecessary. Was Yaya DaCosta’s entire role totally unnecessary? Of course! Did Kim Basinger actually add anything to the movie? Probably not. But the whole thing was a fun, fully-committed romp that paid off better than the vast majority of films you’ll see this year, or possibly ever. This is a movie for people with an interest in a number of genres, to varying degrees. The Venn diagram here is widely-encompassing, but generous. This is a movie for people who love noir, or neo-noir; if you like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (also from Shane Black), this will not disappoint; if you like capers, or heists, or Ryan Gosling falling down and doing other forms of physical comedy to a degree you didn’t know he had in him; if you just like fun— this is your movie. It’s not the best movie, but it’s probably the best movie you can see this weekend.