The Nice Guys (USA, 2016)

nice_guys_ver2Directed by: Shane Black. This was the guy who directed one of the Iron Man movies, if I’m not mistaken. I’m not saying that necessarily colours my perception of this movie, like I’m expecting it to be dumb just because it’s some superhero director. Not saying, just saying…But ohhh look at that! Turns out this movie was kind of dumb anyway. And before you say it, I know, I know, I just said that I loved Keanu so much because it’s dumb, which is true—it’s dumb and it’s amazing. What I mean is that this one is kind of dumb and it’s not amazing. Is that scientific enough for you? But don’t get me wrong, this was an enjoyable enough movie, a few good chuckle-worthy moments, and it was nice seeing this dynamic between Gosling and Crowe, mostly to see Gosling jump into comedy. I still remember him as a scrawny teenager from Canadian TV, where he was always the clown, and it’s great to see him return to those sensibilities after establishing himself as a brooding dramatic leading man. Another thing I was going to mention is the time frame of this movie. I have a little old-man-crank gripe in my back pocket at any given time about arbitrary nostalgia-fetishism, where a movie (or a much-hyped TV show…) places the story in the past, even though the plot would function just as well in the present. Usually, the filmmakers have some phoney-baloney reason or other, but usually the reason is something like this: “Those cool old clothes! Those cool old cars! The old-timey rotary telephones! It’s so analogue!” etc etc etc. In this case, you can kind of tell everything you need to know about this film by the poster image above. Big, 70’s sunglasses, tacky moustaches, garish wide-collar shirts, Ryan Gosling with his arm in a cast. Everything is disheveled, everything is old-fashioned and busted, because we view the 70’s as old-time and busted, and at the risk of being uncharitable, I suspect the whole enterprise isn’t really there for any solid reason other than to bask in the distant judgment of the 21st century, looking back at the 20th century and say “ewwwwwww! gross!!!!”. Not that this isn’t really insightful and interesting, but Anchorman already did it. By the way, Anchorman was also a dumb comedy…and I loved it. In that movie, though, the whole thing was in aid of getting a laugh. Here, there’s also an appeal to real-time, gritty, neo-noir that bathes in looking at the past through grime-coloured lenses, in the tradition of Chinatown. For that matter, the presence of Kim Basinger (why is her appearance so novel? Goddamit, Hollywood, hire more women over 40 for chrissakes!) invokes L.A. Confidential, and her whole function in this plot, this giant CIA conspiracy theory thing, I’m not sure what it’s doing in this movie, other than to have Kim Basinger remind us of the gritty neo-noir gravity of L.A. Confidential, as a sort of short cut to borrow some of that movie’s heft and inject it directly into this movie. As I remember Inherent Vice, I’m reminded of the existence of this burgeoning sub-genre, the specific L.A. noir, and how these days, instead of a Bogart-as-Marlowe vibe in the 40’s, the leading archetype is stoner-slacker-loser private eye thrust into circumstances way above his pay grade, the clown becoming a hero, but because it’s noir, he doesn’t really save the day, the society around him, our society, is still compromised and controlled by mysterious and shadowy forces. And it’s all set in the 70’s. (For references, see Inherent Vice, The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould, The Big Lebowski, and to a lesser extent even Hunter Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) I was also going to mention the two or three weird pedo-vibes this film dips its toe into, for no apparent benefit of the plot, including the part where Ryan Gosling’s 12-year-old daughter makes a joke about giving him a rim job, and then sneaks into the porn-star party to hang out and watch porn with a bunch of adults, because…it furthers the plot tremendously? [spoiler: it doesn’t.] Okee dokey, Shane Black, I’m just going to tip toe away from this movie now…

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