Warner Bros.’ comedic cop drama The Nice Guys comes out this week, and if you haven’t seen it yet you can enjoy the trailer here. The film was directed by Shane Black (best known for Iron Man 3), and stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as ’70s detectives who find themselves caught up in a murder mystery surrounding a former porn star in Los Angeles.
Early glimpses of this project made it look like a standard buddy cop drama that could be very funny, but might also represent a couple of veteran actors having a bit of fun to mediocre effect. But now the early reviews are in, and frankly they’re somewhat shocking. The Nice Guys is getting absolute rave reviews. Critics seem to agree that Crowe and Gosling are having a great deal of fun together, but that in this case, the result is a film that viewers can have fun with as well.
For Gosling, perhaps this isn’t much of a surprise. In a relatively quiet way he’s been one of the more reliable headliners in Hollywood in recent years. Crowe, on the other hand, has experienced a little bit of a lull as of late when you consider just how big a deal he was a mere 15 years ago. In fact, if the reviews keep up the way they look right now, this might be Crowe’s most successful film since right around the turn of the century.
It was then that Crowe truly burst onto the scene as a superstar, beginning with his starring role in Ridley Scott’s 2000 Roman epic Gladiator. In that film, as fans will recall, Crowe played Maximus, a Roman general betrayed by his emperor who becomes a champion gladiator and stands up to said emperor in front of all of Rome. Not only did Crowe win the Oscar the following winter for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but the film has proven to have an unshakeable legacy.
Perhaps the best overt illustration of that legacy is that 16 years after the film’s release, this site is still featuring a Gladiator-based jackpot game. The site primarily hosts bingo rooms, but among other casino-style games are a few themed offerings, and the Gladiator one features original music and imagery from the film.
This goes to show that it’s still one of the most popular and recognizable films out there even after all this time. Furthermore, you can see its influence (and by association, Crowe’s) in any number of ancient epics that have come out pretty much annually since 2000.
Almost immediately on the heels of the success of Gladiator in 2000 (and at the 2001 Oscars), Crowe starred in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. A far more introspective film, it concerned John Nash (Crowe), a brilliant but socially atypical mathematician who begins a tortured mental journey after accepting work as a cryptographer. Crowe was nominated for another Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, though he did not win it a second consecutive time (Denzel Washington won for Training Day, though A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture).
That film, too, had a lasting impact even if it was never as visually memorable or as well suited to gaming adaptations as Gladiator. A Beautiful Mind solidified Crowe as one of the top actors working in Hollywood and helped to propel the careers of the likes of Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany (who incidentally married in 2003).
It can also be said to have set the bar for films about uncommon genius, which have had something of a resurgence of late. 2014’s The Imitation Game certainly bore some resemblance, and this film that came out just this month, while quite different, shows that the idea of the mathematician-based drama has endured.
Since these two classic hits, however, Crowe’s career has been hit-and-miss. Films like Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World, Cinderella Man, and 3:10 To Yuma occasionally remind the world of his immense talents. But a few whiffs like Broken City, a much-maligned role as Javert in Les Miserables, and attachment to Zack Snyder’s awful Man Of Steel film have also made it seem at times as if he might be past his prime.
Clearly, the early indication is that The Nice Guys is proof to the contrary. Again, Gosling has been pretty reliable of late, in that even his less serious projects have been funny and well received. But to see a new Russell Crowe film delighting critics across the board is a wonderful spring treat for film fans who still see him as one of the best in the business. And make no mistake about it: The Nice Guys, as well as Crowe’s performance specifically, is getting rave reviews.