9 Ryan Gosling Whimpers out of 10
A lot of the comedy we’ve seen lately has been rather limited in how it tries to be funny. They tell their jokes in dialogue with predictable cuts between each character or create a ludicrous situation for the clichéd straight man to react to. Both of those if done right are hilarious, but they ignore what used to be one of the main sources of comedy in film, physical comedy: Think Charlie chapman and the three stooges.
The art of physical comedy has become at most a gimmick in comedic films. The fact that “The Nice Guys” utterly defies that trend is one of the major reasons why I loved it so much. The film strives to make nearly every moment funny and in doing so uses every type of comedy to great avail. “The Nice Guys” might just possess some of the best physical humor I’ve seen in years, with Ryan Gosling knocking his role out of the park. The film uses a wide range of comedy to great effect, and in the process is nearly bursting at the seams with dark witty humor. It just spends a lot of its time to ensure that it’s fundamentally hilarious, and it is.
“The Nice Guys” is set in 1977 and follows two men, one a detective (Ryan Gosling) and the other a thug for hire (Russel Crowe), who are at a crossroads in their lives and proceed to stumble upon a case that’s a massive conflux of corruption, cash, and pornography. As I said earlier, Gosling knocks his role out of the park, playing one of the worst/most likable characters I’ve ever seen in a film. The character could have very easily become annoying, but Gosling’s performance insured that he was instead hilarious and sympathetic. His physical comedy is one of the highlights of the film, a talent I hadn’t thought Gosling possessed. Crowe plays the straight man in a role that could have also devolved into a cliché, but his performance made it work. He portrays a complex troubled character whose reactions to Gosling’s jokes are often what makes them work. The chemistry between these two really startled me, but it was always necessary for a buddy-cop movie like this to work. They’re simply great onscreen together, complimenting each other throughout the film.
For a while there, throughout the 2000s, action-comedy films became a dime a dozen and eventually the vast majority were bad and repetitive. The genre became stagnant and people began to make the same movie over and over again, reusing tropes to the point that they became clichés. Eventually this led to films that satirized the genre, poking fun at the many clichés action-comedies had produced. The remake of “21 Jump Street” is an example of this. Ironically this produced a time where action comedies existed for little purpose then to parody their genre, to the point where it itself became clichéd. “The Nice Guys” manages to avoid this trap in the best of ways. It simply has great comedy and great action. It’s sincere, entirely lacking irony in this regard. It’s the kind of movie that popularized the action-comedy, just being good instead of relying on a gimmick.
My only major complaint about “The Nice Guys” is that it was a little lacking in the way of big gut-wrenching laughs, though it was littered with smaller moments that would have you chuckling to yourself. Beyond that it has very mature themes and is littered with both nudity and profanity, not excessively but necessary for the story they were telling. Still, it’s not a family film. Instead it’s a darkly themed yet lighthearted action-comedy that, between Ryan Gosling’s and Russel Crowe’s performances, does just about everything right that it needs to.