Directed by Shane Black
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe share excellent chemistry in this highly amusing ‘buddy-cop’ mystery, which unfolds in such a bizarre manner I was reminded a little of some of the Coen’s work. The two actors play off each other perfectly, and I find it amazing that these guys haven’t worked together before. The teaser trailers released displayed that chemistry, with hilarious results. Throughout all the twists, this chemistry is always apparent and it is easily the best thing about the movie.
Renting a house that his daughter Holly hates, while he ‘rebuilds’ his old house that burnt down, Holland March is a P.I. – a semi-functional drunk who is trying to win his daughter’s respect while working a seedy job. Directly contrasting him is the more… insistent of the two. Jackson Healy likes his brass knuckles and he is decidedly unlicensed. He also likes to get to the point, just one of many character traits that contrast brilliantly against March’s drunken methods. The two get off to something of a rough start, as Healy is working for a girl who wants to be left alone, and March is the one looking for her. Thanks to some very convenient circumstances, it soon becomes apparent that they need to team up to find this girl who may or may not want to be found, who may or may not be in danger.
As they bumble their way through the investigation, the story throws plenty of memorable characters at us (‘Blue Face’ being my favourite, played by Beau Knapp), as well as weaving in a variety of themes, such as big business, pollution that is killing wildlife (and protesting college students), and a highly sought after ‘experimental’ film that seems to be far more important than it should be.
This is easily the most I have laughed since I saw The Lobster, and while there is some great psychical screwball humour, the biggest laughs come from the relationship that Healy and March form, how well they are played by Ryan and Russell, and how sharp the script is, offering many verbal barbs for them to launch at one another. Balancing against the comedy is the moral compass of film, March’s daughter Holly. A no-bullshit 13-year old who is perhaps a little too mature for her father’s liking, she has some key lines that pierce the ethical grey areas that her father and Healy work within.
Holly is played by young Aussie, Angourie Rice, and it is great to see her again after her turn in the Aussie thriller These Final Hours, where she outshone many of the adult actors. Her turn here is just as impressive, and both roles required a lot from the young actor. Keep an eye out for her in the future. I was also impressed with the wardrobe and soundtrack; they are both spot on, without being over the top, never screaming ‘SEVENTIES!” at the top of its lungs like some 70’s based films do. Unfortunately though we have more horrid camera-work during hand-to-hand combat. I understand that not every film can look like Ong Bak, but I really wish film-makers would put in the effort to choreograph fight scenes properly, meaning they could be filmed in a much less manic and messy style.
If it isn’t obvious already – this is escapist entertainment. As much as I can’t escape into superhero films, this was a flick that I could immerse myself into completely. However, if you want to pick out flaws, you will find more than I was expecting. The story, while entertaining and funny, has a few plot-holes and more than a couple of extremely convenient situations. The ending was also a little underwhelming considering everything that had preceded it, and it unfortunately eluded to a possible sequel – perhaps this is because the director has made a super-hero film. Few of them ever end on a finite note. Personally, I’d probably watch a sequel, but I highly doubt that it would be better than this, even if all the writers and cast returned.
I admit that the plot flew over my head many times; more than once I was asking myself ‘so who is this guy again?’ Additionally, the whole story seems much more complicated that it needed be, though I guess that is one of the angles that made it so funny. But it is the chemistry between the two leads that stands out; responsible for the most laughs and the best scenes. The film also handles the balance between action and comedy well, executing both with finesse, though I would have liked a little more action in the cocktail. But I’m not complaining, for once I have found a ‘summer’ film to escape into!
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