(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: The Nice Guys.
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Now, HBO Go, Max Go
The Pitch: Depressed private detective Ryan Gosling and burly bruiser Russell Crowe end up joining forces to solve a mystery in 1977 Los Angeles.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Shane Black brings his usual twisty plotting and laugh-out-loud hilarious dialogue to a good old fashioned detective story. Criminally underrated when it arrived in theaters, The Nice Guys has become a kind of cult classic, and rightfully so – it’s funny as hell, and features career-best performances from both Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.
“YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY.” So says the pen-inked message across the hand of sad-sack private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling). A mopey, chain-smoking detective who doesn’t seem to be very good in his job, March’s latest case eventually leads him to violently cross paths with Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), muscle-for-hire who ends up being tasked with breaking March’s arm. But soon, these two very different guys have formed a reluctant partnership to find a missing girl (Margaret Qualley, on the cusp of her big Once Upon a Time in Hollywood break-out fame). Their case ends up involving the porn industry, swinging parties, violent murders, the United States Department of Justice, a vision of Richard Nixon, and more.
It’s absurd – and yet, not. Shane Black is one of the best screenwriters around, and The Nice Guys is just another in a long line of snappy, funny buddy pics (see also: Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). But it’s also more melancholy, which seems appropriate for the current times we find ourselves in. March keeps catching glimpses of that message on his hand – reminding him that his days of happiness might be at an end.
That’s not to say The Nice Guys is all doom and gloom. It’s funny as hell, and Gosling and Crowe are dynamite together. Gosling, in particular, is something of a revelation here. He’s spent so much of his career playing brooding, monosyllabic guys that we’ve been missing out on his serious comedy chops. There’s a section here where he discovers a dead body, and immediately turns into the second coming of Lou Costello, that’s so goddamn funny it’ll have tears running down your cheeks.
The Nice Guys isn’t quite as tightly plotted as some of Black’s other buddy pic whodunits – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is superior, for instance. But it might be the funniest, and that’s what’s important right now. It’s a shame this flick was a box office dud, because we could use a whole slew of sequels right about now where Gosling and Crowe get involved in other farcical mysteries. Best of all, it has a surprisingly warm ending, especially for Gosling’s character, who realizes he may actually be happy again after all. We should all be so lucky.
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