So you’ve just finished The Nice Guys and you find there’s a hole in your heart that needs filling. You could watch the movie again of course (the studio would probably prefer that you would considering the dismal box office results it has had) or you could check out The Last Boy Scout and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the film’s two cinematic soulmates written (and also directed in the case of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) by Shane Black. But there are other crime or detective comedies that share characteristics with The Nice Guys and if you’re a fan, as I am, then you should give them a watch.
10. The Adventures of Ford Fairlane
There are a great many reasons why this movie isn’t popular, the greatest of which being that it was designed as a starring vehicle for comedian Andrew Dice-Clay. Dice, whose deliberately misogynistic and goonish comedic stylings aged like milk has poisoned basically anything that he touched during the period when he was famous. Ford Fairlane does nothing to dull Dice’s antics but here they play more as a strength as titular detective Ford Fairlane is played up as more than a bit of a loser, sort of a Kenny Powers for the 90s . The film follows private detective Ford Fairlane (and his long-suffering sidekick Jazz, played by the always wonderful Lauren Holly) as he investigates the death of a groupie, getting wound up in a vast conspiracy throughout the seedy underbelly of the music industry which involves a shock-jock played by Gilbert Gottfried, a crazed English hitman played by A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund, a washed-up disco star turned detective played by Married With Children and Modern Family‘s Ed O’Neil, and a villainous Wayne Newton. Some of the jokes are as ugly as Dice’s stand-up act but the film is eminently watchable and bizarre if not nearly as funny as it thinks it is.
9. Cat Run
Cat Run is the story of a prostitute in Montenegro who goes on the run when she gets some evidence relating to a high-ranking government official. The titular “Cat” (played by Paz Vega) is helped on her way by two bumbling private detectives (Alphonso McAuley and Scott Mechlowicz) and chased by a savvy British assassin (Janet McTeer.) It’s violent and weird, strange that it was made and even stranger that it actually got a theatrical run. The movie filled with bizarre comedic choices including comedian D.L. Hughley as the detectives’ triple amputee secretary and a gunfight set to Fergie’s London Bridge.
8. The Big Hit
Four hitmen (Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Bokeem Woodbine) kidnap a wealthy man’s daughter for ransom money, the only problem is that she just so happens to be the god-daughter of their boss and he didn’t sanction the kidnapping. Lou Diamond Phillips’ character gets pulled in and starts killing off his partners in an attempt to hide his own involvement. It sounds pretty dark but this is easily one of the goofiest movies on this list featuring, among other things, an ongoing joke about an overdue rental of King Kong Lives and a scene involving two parties one-upping each other with various machines to stop call-tracing. Its tone is all over the place but it’s an enjoyable mess.
Directed by Sam Raimi between Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 and written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Crimewave had a disastrous production with Raimi fighting with the studio constantly that ultimately ended with the film premiering theatrically only in Kansas and Alaska. Nearly everyone involved regards the film as a total disaster. Nonetheless, Crimewave melds a film noir framework to goofy over-the-top slapstick trappings making it feel like the darkest Three Stooges sketch ever. A hapless loser accidentally gets caught up in a spree of murders carried out by two exterminators (their yellowpages ad has “men” listed nonchalantly amongst various common pests which they kill) hired to off a local business owner’s partner, through a series of convoluted events he has been blamed for each of these crimes and is telling his farfetched story as he prepares to be executed by electric chair. Brion James and Bruce Campbell appear in the film.
6. The Ice Harvest
The Ice Harvest, directed by the late Harold Ramis, suffered from a bit of misleading marketing and unfavorable comparisons to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which also came out that year. The Ice Harvest is a comedy but the trailers sold it as a lot more zany than it is. The comedy is more secondary, depicting an accountant (John Cusack) and his partner in crime (Billy Bob Thornton) who skim a bunch of money out of a local mob bosses’ (Randy Quaid) pocket. Cusack is just about ready to skip town, thinking he got off scott free but he’s about to have the worst night of his life. There’s a lot going on and while the trailer promised laugh-a-minute gags and slapstick we get a more muted and wicked sense of humor along with some dependable low-key comic acting from Thornton and Oliver Platt. It’s a somber affair but it’s a dark comedy that grows on you and arguably the only great film Ramis directed after Groundhog Day.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels would probably be the Guy Ritchie movie that many people would put in this spot and his more recent Rocknrolla would fit here nicely too but the pinnacle of what many film buffs think of as “The Guy Richie Movie” for me is and will always be Snatch. Sporting an almost absurdly convoluted (in a good way) plot involving a boxing promoter and his sidekick (Jason Statham and Stephen Graham), a London gangster (Alan Ford), an American crime Boss (Dennis Farina), a hitman (Vinnie Jones), a group of Irish travelers (led by a mush-mouthed Brad Pitt), and an assortment of other ne’er-do-wells get into all manner of bloody trouble around the framework of a missing diamond stolen in the film’s opening. It’s clever, funny, and it’s rather amazing how Richie brings all the chaos together at the end.
4. Get Shorty
Based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, Get Shorty concerns Chili Palmer (John Travolta) a debt collector for the mob who goes to L.A. to cool his heels when a mobster he’s angered (Dennis Farina) gets the all-clear to retaliate. Palmer runs onto the path of schlock filmmaker Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) who has found himself in debt to some less than upstanding people. After talking to Zimm, Palmer decides to start helping him make a movie and securing his choice of hotshot A-list actor Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), this spirals into a mess when a local criminal (Delroy Lindo) takes an interest in the film and clashes with palmer. Meanwhile Zimm is getting upset because his movie is getting sidelined for a semi-biographical film about Chili’s life. There’s also a sequel, Be Cool, which isn’t nearly as good but still entertaining enough.
3. Big Trouble
Big Trouble was a box-office flop largely thanks to the events of 9/11 (the third act involves hijacking a plane and easily getting a nuclear weapon through airport security as well as two very unscrupulous government agents, leading it to be shelved for a time and release with basically no marketing), it was based on a novel by humor columnist Dave Barry and concerns a group of people in Florida. Basically a curiously strong hermit (Jason Lee), a housemaid (Sofia Vergara) two dimwitted bandits (Johnny Knoxville and Tom Sizemore), two teenagers (Ben Foster and Zooey Deschanel), their single parents (Tim Allen and Rene Russo), two police officers (Janeane Garofalo and Patrick Warbuton), two hitmen (Dennis Farina and Jack Kehler), an obnoxious jerk (Stanley Tucci), a toad that spews hallucinogens from its eyes, and a suitcase nuke all come together for a ridiculous week that culminates with the detonation of said nuke. The plot is absurd as various unconnected events drive things toward that eventuality one fiasco after another, the cast is great, and Barry’s scathing but absurdist sense of humor marries well to a fictional setting.
2. In Bruges
Though a fair amount more somber and contemplative than The Nice Guys, anyone looking for comedic dialogue rivaling that of Shane Black can do no better than Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. It’s the story of two hitmen (played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) sent to Bruges, Belgium to cool their heels for a few days following a botched job. Farrell’s character deals with guilt and self-loathing over what happened and things take an even worse turn when the true reason for their mission in Bruges is revealed. In Bruges is hilarious and witty, while also being very sad and exploring concepts like morality and honor in a way that never feels overwrought. You could also check out McDonaugh’s second film Seven Psychopaths, which starts off with a very similar tone but veers off into more experimental territory at the midpoint.
1. Raising Arizona
You think Holland March can take a beating? Well, then you’ve never heard of H.I. McDunnough. I could have picked numerous entries in the filmography of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen to put on this list but none is more appropriate to the subject matter than their sophomore film Raising Arizona. When reformed ex-convict/stick-up man H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) and his police officer wife Edwina (Holly Hunter) find that they cannot conceive a child they hatch a plan to take one of the Arizona Quintuplets. Figuring that the Arizona family has enough to worry about and that four other children will ease the pain of losing one, H.I. makes off with baby Nathan Jr. in the middle of the night setting off a chain of events involving two moronic bank robbers he befriended in jail (William Forsythe and John Goodman) and a bike riding bounty hunter seemingly borne out of Hell itself (Randall Tex Cobb.) Raising Arizona sports a ridiculous plot, hilarious dialogue, and maybe one of the funniest chase scenes ever committed to film.