The shady suicide of Misty Mountains (she’s a stripper, in case you thought that was her real name) is just one of the threads private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) has to make sense of when he and his daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) team up with mercenary enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to solve a missing person case in this hip and funny pulp detective drama from “Lethal Weapon” scribe and “Iron Man 3” director Shane Black.
Clever writing pulls it all together — Misty’s last words (“How do you like my car, big boy?”), a villain nicknamed John Boy for the pronounced birthmark on his cheek that is comically similar to one sported for years by Waltons star Richard Thomas, and catalytic converters.
It’s so seventies. Disco, aviator frames, cool cars, gas lines. They’re all here along with cinematography that conveys the perennial smog haze and totally sells the period. (Gosling even charges $200 a day, just like Rockford.)
Reminiscent at times of the wonderful “L.A. Confidential,” which also starred Crowe and Kim Basinger (the latter is the missing girl’s mother), “Nice Guys” has a lot going for it. Movie themes rise above the stock characters of intelligent child and formulaic buddy-buddy cop relationship. Here, for example, Holland’s daughter is somewhere between Tatum O’Neal in “Paper Moon” and a middle school version of Veronica Mars.
At times, the movie wanders into absurd territory, which could be distracting if you like trying to tie all plots together to find where they will merge.
Don’t bother. Black’s script is tight and the wild action and off-the-wall comedy make the 3rd-act reveals impossible, even for the most seasoned Kojaks and Columbos, to detect.
4 out of 5 honks
Pop culture’s most misaligned decade
Though they gave us “The Godfather” and microprocessors, the legacy of the 1970s will always be leisure suits, “Seasons in the Sun,” and “Hee Haw Honeys.” But it wasn’t all bad. Here are a few films that got the 70s vibe right.
American Hustle (2013)
David O. Russell’s critically-acclaimed take on the FBI ABSCAM operation. Co-starred Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence. The best moment is when Mafia boss Victor Tellegio (a delicious Robert De Niro cameo) insists on meeting a sheik portrayed by undercover agent Michael Peña.
Oscar-winning biopic of Tony Mendez who faked the filming of a documentary to help free several diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis. Ben Affleck starred and directed.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
In one of his best roles, Johnny Depp was FBI agent Joe Pistone who rose higher in the mob ranks than had any other undercover agent. Was there chemistry between Depp and Al Pacino, who was mentor Lefty Ruggiero? Fuggetaboutit!