Unfortunately, financial concerns may keep Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe from returning to their buddy-cop roles.
Writer-director Shane Black may be on the brink of dazzling sci-fi loving audiences with Predator, but his foundation will always lie in the genius of his buddy-cop films. Naturally, his Lethal Weapon screenplay and directorial debut with the crime thriller Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are often cited above all else when discussing his career.
However, 2016 brought a shiny, wholly original new feature into the director’s treasure trove: The Nice Guys, starring the unlikely pairing of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Set in the late 1970s, the darkly comedic film centers around a missing girl, the mysterious death of a porn star, and the “not that nice” duo that have been unceremoniously dropped right in the middle of it all.
The Nice Guys remains Black’s highest-rated film ever, earning an impressive 92% Rotten Tomatoes score and a 70% Metacritic score. It’s possibly his greatest achievement in terms of the buddy-cop genre, succeeding wonderfully at engrossing mystery as well as off-beat comedy. Besides Black’s prowess, The Nice Guys is further buoyed by the incredible comedic timing and personalities of Gosling’s alcoholic private eye and Crowe’s dispassionate hired enforcer.
Despite making a metaphorical killing among critics and fans alike, the film’s box office run was conversely poor. With a budget of $50 million, The Nice Guys only made $62.8 million worldwide. Perhaps murder-mystery oriented action movies do much worse in theaters than their car-chase counterparts. It can also be argued that the film’s poor turnout was a result of its release around the same time as Captain America: Civil War and Neighbors 2 — the latter more so due to sharing a similar target audience.
In any case, this low box office return spells out bad news for any potential sequels to The Nice Guys. Despite this, in a new Fandango interview, Black reveals he is very much on board for a follow-up. He maintains that he would make the sequel “in a heartbeat, if someone would pay for it.”
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “If someone decided that it were enough of a cult hit to justify that, I’d be on it.”
The odds are altogether against him, as Black acknowledges, regarding the funds for the nebulous sequel. However, he himself is leading the charge for a miracle continuation to his surprise critical hit. His ardent support of the potential Nice Guys project, despite the financial pitfalls, shows how much belief and love the director has for what he created back in 2016.
It’s becoming increasingly rare to have a filmmaker look past earnings and focus more on the story they want to tell, or on how passionate they are about a project. Additionally, Black clearly saw how much the fresh humor of The Nice Guys has resonated with its viewers, something that was likely appreciated by him as a writer above all else. Perhaps the high critical response helped the filmmaker realize how much the story was loved, despite low theater attendance, and was motivated by this as well.
To get a sequel off the ground the project would need a good amount of money. Gosling and Crowe are both high-profile actors with equally high-profile salaries. As Black hints in the interview, though, The Nice Guys has reached near-cult film status in terms of popularity and heightened originality. It may be this alleged cult following that helps make a sequel happen.
Black has the ideas, and the fans may have the power to amplify his cry for a sequel. The ability of a group of impassioned film nerds to make studio execs realize there could be money in a new project (or in this case, a continuation of one) should never be underestimated. After all, everybody loves an underdog.