The following was commissioned by Culture Fly
Dear Ryan Gosling,
Hey boy, my female friends tell me you’ve always been funny, versatile and cute, but when did you become this funny? Because, you’re not just snide-remark funny, but actually stomach-aching cannot-breathe funny. You get 90 percent of the laughs in Shane Black’s hilarious 1970s noir, giving a performance audiences haven’t seen from you. Sure, Lars and the Real Girl proved you could act, and Drive blossomed your sex appeal, but you steal the film (literally) as PI Holland March. You translate “fuckwit into English” with every action telling us something about your character. Who knew you falling over backwards could become a hilarious running joke. You sell it, Ryan, you sell it.
So, Ryan, you already know The Nice Guys’ plot pivots around March’s search for the missing porn star Misty Mountains, with you partnering up with Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healy. You have a lovely throwback chemistry with Russell, as his gruffness counterbalances your zaniness and flair. The two of you are the perfect foils for one another and keep the buddy dynamic from sliding into predictability.
Those who dismiss the film as another buddy-cop comedy are wrong. The film uses a three-way character dynamic to upend the bromance tendencies as your on-screen daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), is smarter than thou. Rice brings a grown-up sensibility to the story to counteract yours and Russell’s childish antics. Acting wise, you’ve found yourself amongst a great ensemble, it’s just a shame Kim Basinger, a veteran of LA noir, feels wooden compared to your charismatic hurricane.
The funny thing is, it all could have gone wrong. Holly could have been annoying, you too zany and Crowe too bristly, but Black and Anthony Bagarozzi’s script plays with our expectations. Ryan, playing lewd sends up your image, but it somehow stays recognisable. From the moment the film starts with an establishing shot of nighttime Los Angles soundtracked by a saxophone, the audience felt like we knew what we were going to get, and then, we don’t. Everything is different but the same. The script was obviously soaked in a Pulp Fiction brine with Chandler and Hammett to Chinatown and The Pink Panther being clear influences. The Nice Guys’ story beats feel familiar but then it subtly subverts the genre.
Maybe, Ryan, you saw Shane Black noir movie and thought you’d be counterbalancing the meme feminism you’ve become synonymous with, considering noir is all about the patriarchy. But, if this was your aim Ryan, you’ve failed. There is casual violence against women, but Black gives us equal opportunity casual violence. The film isn’t feminist, but it does call out the patriarchy. In the first scene, a boy perves on Misty Mountains’ centrefold spread. The next moment, her naked body is found in the exact same position but with added blood. Black is laughing at us for our past perversions. It’s great directing, summing the film up in three minutes, and reveals Black’s ability to create interesting images. Sadly, there was no equal opportunity nudity even though there were multiple opportunities to see the P.
The film is filthy, funny and a blast that subverts the genre to deliver some 70s inspired funk to the cinema. Any film that stars Keith David is going to be great, so thank you, Ryan, for using your star power to help get this made.