“Are you a bad person?”
This question hangs over the film amidst all the smog of LA, the literally toxic environment raising the question of whether any decency exists in this world. Porn, parties, cars, and conspiracies seem to rule the city, and anyone who tries to accomplish something good will probably be met with opposition. Enter Jackson Healy and Holland March, two guys who never cease to be fun to watch, two guys who may or may not be bad people, but are capable of doing good things. They vacillate between vaguely knowing what to do and having no clue what to do, and there’s a lot of joy to be found in seeing them slip and slide their way toward a messy conclusion. Gosling’s manic physical comedy and Crowe’s tough exterior-softer interior mesh perfectly with each other in this buddy cop set-up, and throwing Angourie Rice’s Holly into the mix is a surefire way to increase not only the laughs, but also the heart. Rice finds a way to transcend the precocious kid trope and create a fully formed character, and her moral compass is a beating heart in this polluted city. She’s just as much a lead as the “nice guys”.
It’s not exactly your most efficient movie ever, and some jokes and digressions don’t quite land. However, there’s certainly an energy pulsating underneath it all, and when the jokes do work–an elevator scene, a hit and run, a dream sequence paying off, a bathroom stall and a misplaced cigarette, etc.–they work extremely well. Shane Black’s got this style of movie down pat, and his film is vulgar and hilarious at one moment, sweet and heartwarming the next. The opening scene–set to “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”–is stellar, and the next two hours are a blast.
Photo credit: The Nice Guy, Silver Pictures, Rat-Pac Dune Entertainment