The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys ★★★

I've seen The Nice Guys a couple of times, and it's one of those movies that I like huge parts of, but the sum total of it always leaves me feeling unsatisfied and kinda empty. When the movie's working, it's the funniest thing ever - Gosling's complete silence as he topples over the ledge is hysterical, and the bit where Crowe denies killing the guy is the best acting he’s done in the 21st century - but somehow this thing doesn't hang together in the way that other dark comedies of this kind tend to, including the director's previous Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Another reason I've seen this so many times is that each time, I tend to forget huge swaths of it. There's parts of it that are stuck in my brain - like I said, Gosling going over the edge is a movie highlight, as is his silent scream as he discovers the body (RDJ cameo) - but the movie itself is not very memorable, oddly. This could potentially work in its favor; the cool thing about a movie you keep forgetting is that you can rewatch it as many times as you want and it's still fresh! But the parts I tend to forget, I tend to forget for a reason. Either the movie's uproarious, or it's totally washing over me, and there's more of the latter than the former unfortunately.

Something else that surprised me upon rewatch; I really don’t like the cinematography in this. The production design is great, full of on point period details, but the actual way it looks is very flat and televisual. Famously, Shane Black made the first Marvel movie to be shot on digital rather than film, which in hindsight is one of the key contributing factors to that whole series looking as uniformly dull and grey as it does now, so there's some sad irony in that unappealing visual palette infecting his non-studio movies as well.

There's too many great things in this for me to write off; this is far and away Gosling's best performance in a movie, proof that he's more than "stoic guy who internalizes all his feelings" (I love how Gosling keeps giving these little nods and gestures like he’s saying, "Yea I’m in charge here" and not even his daughter takes him seriously). I also wouldn't say this is as bad as Seven Psychopaths, another film made by a famous dark comedy director as a followup to a stone-cold classic, which was just lazy and full of itself. There's effort here, including an attempt to really make a cogent thematic point at the end. But having said all that, for as much good is in here, it does track that this guy would go on to make 2018's The Predator.

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