Meet The New Abbott & Costello in “The Nice Guys”
By Skip Sheffield
Meet the new Abbott & Costello: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.
Crowe and Gosling play mismatched buddies in the Shane Black comedy “Nice Guys,” set in a smog-saturated Los Angeles in the gritty, goofy 1970s.
Russell Crowe is in the serious straight-man Bud Abbott role of professional enforcer Jackson Healy. Ryan Gosling is in the nervous, screw-up Lou Costello role of Holland March, a shady private investigator who has become an alcoholic since his wife died, leaving him the single father of 13-year-old Holly (Angourie Rice).
Healy and March meet violently. Healy has been hired by Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who thinks she is being stalked by March. Amelia wants Healy to scare March. Healy goes one better. He breaks March’s hand.
Meanwhile a porn star named Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) has gone missing and Amelia fears she is dead. Despite their differences, Healy and March are forced to join forces when Amelia herself disappears.
The Los Angeles of 1977 was a mean, nasty place. Shane Black’s script reflects all the negatives of a down and out City of Angels. Black first rose to prominence with “Lethal Weapon” and its sequels. Healy and March blunder about from location to location, occasionally fighting and dodging bullets from a ridiculous hitman named John Boy (Matt Boner, having a ball being creepy).
If there is a hero in this unsavory mix it is little Holly, played with wisdom beyond her years by Angourie Rice, who like Crowe is originally from Australia. Holly acts as her father’s keeper, chauffeuring March around when he is too drunk to drive even though Holly is too young to have a license.
Kim Basinger looks like she has been preserved in wax as Judith Kutner, local head of the Department of Justice. Like all the adult characters she is not as pure as she seems.
“The Nice Guys” makes me glad I made it through the 1970s relatively unscathed. It was a turbulent time here in Florida too. At least we can laugh about it now. This movie will certainly make you do that.