Where's Our Goddamn 'Nice Guys' Sequel Already?
This month marks the five-year anniversary of The Nice Guys, Shane Black’s ‘70s-set buddy caper starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a private eye and hired goon, respectively, who team up to solve a mystery. It’s a deeply cynical, ceaselessly funny hard-boiled gem of a movie. The Nice Guys is the kind of proudly unsentimental story where a rock-bottom alcoholic convinces his sober friend to triumphantly start drinking again, rather than the other way around.
In many ways, it’s a vulgar and culturally regressive movie, using its period setting to get away with gleefully unseemly content. But in other ways, it’s subtly forward-thinking, contriving a labyrinthine, Chinatown-esque plot in which government bureaucrats and corporate executives are all pure evil, while porn producers and sex workers are righteous political heroes.
And unlike other vintage throwbacks, The Nice Guys mixes its romanticization of the past with the counterbalance of depressing realities; sure, Crowe’s character, Jackson Healy, somehow lives above The Comedy Store in all of its Richard Pryor-era glory -- but we also glimpse people fistfighting over the gas shortage and choking on the L.A. smog. It presents the ‘70s, not as some glorious ideal, but a dispiriting sneak preview of American degradation.
But at its core, The Nice Guys is a hang-out movie. And, surprisingly, the dude from The Notebook and Cinderella Man have chemistry you could teach in 10th-grade science class. The end of the movie explicitly suggests that this is just the beginning of a series of adventures for this new detective team.
This makes sense: at one point, the project was developed as a television pilot, much to the horror of network standards and practices. But that promise, so blatantly teed-up at the conclusion, has never been fulfilled. Even the gender-swapped TV remake seems to have fizzled out. And while, in this era of toxic fandom’s raging self-entitlement, we’re not going to straight-up demand a Nice Guys sequel, we would like to point out that making one wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
While it’s generally considered a flop, The Nice Guys didn’t lose money at the box office, earning just over $60 million on a $50 million budget. Which isn’t great, but in the ensuing years on home video and streaming, The Nice Guys has amassed something of a cult following as evidenced by, say, this LEGO remake of the elevator scene.
But also, in a world where Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made over $300 million at the box office, perhaps audiences today would have been more receptive to another chill buddy picture set in the Los Angeles of yesteryear that happens to co-star Margaret Qualley.
Both Black and Crowe have publicly voiced that they would be down for a sequel -- so why doesn’t a streaming service make this happen? Netflix spent $60 million making friggin’ Bright. And clearly, their most recent mystery movie offering, The Woman in the Window, was originally destined for theaters but was acquired by Netflix for presumably much more than its $50 million budget -- and it turned out to be more boring than actually just leering at your neighbors in real life. Now Netflix is dumping an insane amount of money into yet more money into murder mystery content with the Knives Out sequels. For a small fraction of that, another streamer, say the one owned by Warner Bros., the studio that made The Nice Guys, could relaunch another detective franchise with a pre-existing fanbase featuring two legit movie stars. And wouldn’t it be nice to watch a Russell Crowe movie that doesn’t end with you hating Russell Crowe and yourself?
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Top Image: Warner Bros.