18-24 November 2016 #833

The nice guys

A shining, hilarious, insouciant film
Sophia Pande

Every year remarkable films get ignored as behemoth franchises take over the world with their huge commercial budgets that reach into the psyches of movie goers and permeate the ether with their clout and irresistible adrenaline inducing trailers.

The Nice Guys - a shining, hilarious, insouciant film by the brilliant Shane Black is an example of one of the smaller films (its budget was $50 million) that got left completely by the wayside (it made just $57.3 million at the box office) when it opened earlier this year - meaning that further films by Black are less likely to be made, even as the Marvel machine moves inexorably on.

While I have no particular objection to the action movie franchises which employ tens of thousands and pour money into studio pockets, I lament the sidelining of more original voices like those of Black whose talents include writing the script for Lethal Weapon in 1987, and whose directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), starring none other than Robert Downer Jr., was a breath of fresh air.

The Nice Guys, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this May is an extension of the now classic buddy cop genre starring the truly great Russell Crowe and the usually charismatic Ryan Gosling as a hapless detective duo who flounder hilariously in the midst of a murder mystery scandal that penetrates into the deep, black heart of 1970s Los Angeles.

Crowe plays Jackson Healey, a thug with a heart of gold who ends up hiring the ever so slightly inept, continually sloshed Holland Cotter (Gosling), a work-out-of-his house Private Investigator, or P.I., whose preternaturally wise daughter Holly (played by the old soul Angourie Rice) is his essential sidekick.

As the three unlikely partners hurtle around trying to find the solutions to a corruption scandal that is truly quite heinous, the film, in addition to being side-splittingly funny, also manages to retain a real gravity, grappling with real evil even as our flawed heroes struggle with their own nebulous moralities, resulting in powerful and accurate character studies of two grown men who have lost their way but manage to regain a sense of decency while they do both right and wrong by the people they love.

Gosling and Crowe steal the show in this classic movie that harks back to the good old days when films told a damn good story, you fell in love with the characters, watched things over and over again, and memorised all the funny lines.The Nice Guys is one of the coolest films I’ve seen this year, memorable, valiant, funny with a heart of gold, and stunning to look at, with style and verve. Can you say the same for anything else you’ve seen recently?

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