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Love for "The Nice Guys" (2016)

I don't have it in me to do a full review today, but I really want to make sure I write a few paragraphs of praise for The Nice Guys.  It is so far my favorite movie that I've seen this year.

It'll naturally draw a lot of comparisons to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, another Shane Black buddy-comedy noir thriller based on a Brett Halliday novel.  And it should - KKBB is also a fantastic movie that was my favorite of the year it came out.  Tragically, there is one more similarity: both movies were financial bombs.

It's a shame that in 2016, two critically-panned DC movies, an adaptation of Trolls, a sequel to the worst magic-themed movie ever made, and the turd I complained about last week all made boatloads of money alongside countless remakes, sequels, and comic book movies - yet nobody saw fit to go see The Nice Guys.  Why?  I mean, my excuse is that I have kids and going to the theater these days requires a depth of planning and coordination normally reserved for military strikes.  What about you?  What was so appealing about "Lex Luthor pisses in a jar" that you decided against seeing something fun?

But I'm not here today to mope or browbeat anybody.  What's done is done, and now's the time everybody can catch up on all the good shit they missed from 2016.  So do yourself the biggest favor you'll do in ages and start with The Nice Guys.

It's absolutely fantastic.  Tellingly, the plot is great, yet I almost want to dismiss it entirely because that's not really the reason to see it.  What you've got here is a classic noir premise involving murder and conspiracy in 1970s Hollywood, with all the sleaze that implies.  A drunkard private detective played by Ryan Gosling and a gruff enforcer played by Russell Crowe team up unexpectedly to look into a missing person case and end up stepping into a web of deceit involving the Department of Justice, fraudulent car emissions testing, and pornography.  It's one of those mystery plots that is simultaneously accessible and engaging, yet incredibly dense and hard to explain succinctly.

There are leagues of difference between TNG and any other trashy movies about dead porn stars.  Shane Black has too much respect for both his characters and his audience to let the movie get away with simple exploitative sex and murder.  He's smarter than that, and so is his movie.  One of the things I love most about Black is that he finds subtle ways to defy your expectations at every turn, so even though you might think, "I know where this is going," and even if you're technically right, you really won't see most of it coming.  Like, sure, you'll guess that the good guy will get away from the bad guy - but the way he does it will floor you.

As a result, this is one goddamn funny movie.  No matter how dark the subject matter gets, it's always made light by the mile-a-minute jokes and subversion.  It's helped massively by the excellent chemistry between Crowe and Gosling, who make one of the best on-screen pairings in buddy comedy history.

This is one of those rare movies that I don't think I can oversell, unless the only way you can enjoy a movie is to be mesmerized by spectacle and scale.  It's the perfect antidote to a year of overblown tentpole movies, epic television, and endless political frustration.  The Nice Guys is a well-made, comparatively low-key movie about two guys with meager goals and expectations, put up against a vast network of oppression and collusion that they frankly don't care too much about.  There's a metaphor in there somewhere, I'm sure of it.