Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck private eye in 1977 Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate turns them into unlikely partners after a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. Healy and March soon learn the hard way that other dangerous people are also looking for Amelia.
This is one of my most anticipated films of 2016. After watching the trailers, it’s pretty easy to figure out why. It seemed to have the right amount of action, drama and comedy. I also couldn’t think of a more unlikely pairing than Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling which made the film intriguing to me. The proverbial cherry on top was writer/director Shane Black who previously wrote/directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3.
The first thing you’ll notice is the authenticity in its depiction of the 1970s; there’s ample attention to detail in its portrayal of 1977 Los Angeles. The film emphasized this early on in how it established its two main characters, March (Gosling) and Healy (Crowe). March is an ethically-challenged, semi-slimy private eye. Healy is a more brutish, hard-nosed enforcer whose sole purpose is to beat people up. Crowe, but especially Gosling, excelled at this.
Whether or not the film would succeed depended on the relationship between Healy and March, and it exceeded all expectation here. It seemed like Crowe and Gosling were genuinely having fun. They were both great individually, but their chemistry was what sold the movie for me. Scenes involving March’s daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) was a surprise addition to the Healy-March dynamic.
What championed all of this was the well-written script. The dialog was smart, engaging and hilarious. Since Healy fulfilled the necessary macho-ness, this allowed March to be the crazier one with more physical comedy and slapstick; the best being a scene involving a bathroom stall. Gosling was just excellent at this bringing lots of laughs and often stealing scenes. The film was full of quotable lines and moments which people will remember long after seeing it.
The story on paper isn’t too original or exciting, but is so stylized that it often felt secondary to the setting and the characters. Since you’re focusing on Healy and March, it’s easy to forget what they’re doing. The plot itself is straightforward, but there’s still a lot going on in the meantime making the journey a little less mundane. Sure, it probably could have dropped some of these subplots to streamline things a little, but it was fine either way. The film also featured a great villain named John Boy (Matt Bomer) who was interesting and fun to watch, but the film never really gave him much of a chance.
Overall, this is a smart, funny but mostly entertaining action movie led by great performances by Crowe and Gosling.
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