When the movie was over, I had a thought; perhaps the reboot culture we live in could benefit with a paradigm shift toward spiritual successors; the correlation in this instance being Lethal Weapon, The Nice Guys and Shane Black. There is enough aesthetic similarity between the two films – instead of bringing back Mel Gibson and Danny Glover or going through the recast shuffle – present the same grimy city element, push it back a decade, and have the main characters in less than reputable jobs. The shot in the beginning of The Nice Guys was a sublime call-back to Lethal Weapon; even the fights brought back comparisons to similar shots.
The beats of the movie are consistent with past examples of noir/crime narrative flow: woman dies, we meet the protagonists in their environments, they cross to hilarious results, get to know each other, go on the trail, get in some fights, the plot unravels, lose the trail, have a break through, another fight, meet the big hoss, learn what is actually going on, have a final shoot out, and become an inseparable team; all within a grimy, polluted, dangerous, and retro set Los Angeles. The pace and flow of the movie is quick, akin to The Wolf of Wall Street; what feels like an hour and a half tops is closer to 2-3 hours of the actual movie time. Stories such as these benefit from a quickened pace as to match the erratic environment the cast occupies, that and to avoid inconsistencies within the narrative flow.
The main inconsistency problem I had was with the third act. The whole “we’ll take them down with an experimental porno” arc put Gosling and Crowe in a no-win situation when it was revealed the antagonist that be was unbeatable by a P.I. and enforcer, even after factoring in the suspense of disbelief prior. Further more, the cheeky gag of how polluted Los Angeles was should have stayed that way; making it the main cause of the whole debacle sent the narrative flow on a preachy path. If the main plot traveled further down the path of investigating the porn industry, then, the recurring gag of pollution could still work as an analogy towards the excess of the industry. That, and we could have had some choice call-backs in the fashion of The Big Lebowski or Boogie Nights.
Understandably, the box office return on The Nice Guys was stifled in the wake of movies such as Neighbors 2, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, and The Angry Birds Movie during opening weekend. I implore that as many people as possible see The Nice Guys if they desire a nutty, skimpy, irreverent tale in the vein of some mad concoction betweeen Pineapple Express and The Big Lebowski; where the wordplay is tight, the action is zany, the movie shot well, and the hijinks last for days. Inconsistencies aside, it is splendid to see that neo-noir is alive, the two protagonists were not totally inept, and that people like Shane Black are still working. Even though it may not make it’s budget back, it is nice to see a spiritual successor in a sea of sequels and reboots.