Not in My Wheelhouse: The Nice Guys
Welcome to “Not in My Wheelhouse,” a weekly column in which one of our staff members recommends a movie to another that is outside of their cinematic comfort zone! See other entries in the series here.
Two not so nice guys go about searching for a girl named "Amelia" who is at the center of a string of murders within the pornography industry. In 1977 LA, Irish "muscle for hire" Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and down on his luck private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) are hired to investigate a girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) and figure out why and how she is connected to a string of deadly crimes within the pornography industry. The plot spirals to include government conspiracies and a healthy dose of violent teamwork.
How Far Outside Of My Wheelhouse Is The Nice Guys?
I have a confession to make.... This movie is entirely within my wheelhouse, but I had never pressed play on it because I forgot it existed. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is one of my favorite movies, and this movie follows the same "fat older actor" and "sassy middle-aged actor being a swarmy idiot" formula that is so successful in KKBB. I generally don't chase after studio comedies or stuffy period films. I also rarely watch movies over 2.5 hours long. This movie is only kind of one of these things. I think it was sold as a big ol' studio comedy, and it definitely has a budget behind it, but it still feels indie (and totally weird) at its heart.
"I wonder if this'll be like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."
I really didn't know what to think walking in. I didn't look up the plot, so I assumed it would be a movie featuring Russell Crowe as a hardass and Ryan Gosling as his idiot sidekick/frenemy. It's a similar set up at its heart as other Shane Black outputs. I was.... uhh.... half right?
I WAS half right! The buddy cop dark comedy formula works. This time, with the help of a grown up little kid in Holly March (Angourie Rice), the Nice Guys (Crow and Gosling) are dumber than KKBB's Kilmer and Downey. I only laughed out loud twice, but I did watch it all by myself in the middle of the day on an iPad. It feels like a big screen movie and I think it loses a bit of its punch when watched on a small screen.
Gosling and Crowe are CLEARLY having a blast, and it makes their on screen chemistry that much better. Holly is a lovely female character and it's nice to have less of a "damsel in distress" feel given to a little kid. Even Amelia, the chick at the center of the wildness, is less a victim of circumstance and more annoyed with everybody's insistence that the "art film" she made with her now deceased boyfriend is a "porno."
Oh, and Kim Basinger shows up as an overzealous, high powered, mom obsessed with Detroit.
The plot.... is hard to follow. It swirls and spirals, and it's very clear that the characters are our main focal point as opposed to the actual mystery, which I'm totally fine with.
The Nice Guys is darker than the usual "studio comedy". It's weird and niche. I guess big budget movies can still be weird. Shane Black is a talented filmmaker and these pulpy 70's style movies are exciting. I'll be sure to remember when the next Shane Black movie comes out and see it in the theatre.
Passing the baton
That's it! The end! So I'll just suggest movies I like, that are out of everybody's wheelhouse, to everybody without caring if they've seen it or not!
Garrett: 12 Angry Men
Andy: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Santelli: Paris is Burning
Gary: His Girl Friday
Catherine: Get Low
Editor’s Note: We are taking a break from this column for a cool project, and will bring this back after!