I just looked at my list of movies to review. Seven more "R" or "TV-MA" movies in a row. I might be a bad person.
If you don't know Shane Black, look him up. In some ways, this review is more of a love letter to Shane Black than a specific analysis of The Nice Guys (which I want to call The Good Guys --the Colin Hanks / Bradley Whitford TV show with the same aesthetic.) Shane Black, writer and director, has a very specific tone. They are fun mystery action movies set at Christmas. His most famous movies are the Lethal Weapon franchise and Iron Man 3. He also has his characters drop the F-Bomb a lot. LA is a character. There. You now get the idea.
In some ways, these movies are the film snob's bro movies. Shane Black's films are always excused from the typical Hollywood blockbuster. Because I am a film snob, I hang out with other film snobs. For the most part, these movies not only get a pass from the film snob, but also are lauded as the best action movies of whatever decade they are released. I can say that about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang very easily. I don't know necessarily what makes these movies weirdly special, but they somehow break out of their genre's boundaries and provide something special for the viewer. In a recent review, I discussed the responsibility of art. I don't think that Black is providing commentary on society with movies like The Nice Guys, but he does something close. He makes a fun movie that he is genuinely passionate about. As an English teacher / nerd, the passion project goes a long way for me. I can't speak for all film snobs, but this is what attracts me to these movies: the passion. Maybe other film snobs just like these movies because they kind of fall under the radar. Who knows? People love having their secret little treasures.
The Nice Guys is exactly what I thought it was. It is a fun '70s buddy detective mystery. Like most of Black's relationships, the best friendships are founded by a disdain for the other. Crowe and Gosling bicker and fight and fight and bicker. The joy can be found in the relationship along with the mystery itself. The mystery here is good, but not great. I can't help but constantly comparing it to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That might be his best movie and this, tonally, is the same film. The animosity between the incompetent and the overly competent, the use of LA self-involvement...Christmas, I guess? It is all there and it was great to revisit this tonal world. But if you are writing a murder mystery, there is a degree of plausibility that is completely done for at one point in this movie.
But at a certain point, I just said "Who cares?" and watched the movie for the joy that this movie provides. Gosling is funnier than I have ever seen him. Crowe has just settled into his typecasting tough guy role. Adding a kid weirdly makes sense. The movie is definitely worth a watch. In many ways, I recommend watching The Nice Guys before watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That's your order actually. If you want to get into this world, double feature these bad boys over two days, starting with The Nice Guys.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.