UK Release Date: 3rd June 2016
Runtime: 116 minutes
Director: Shane Black
Writer: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta
Synopsis: An alcoholic private investigator forms an unlikely bond with the brutish enforcer hired to beat him up as they try to track down a young woman who has become mixed up in a conspiracy.
Despite his brief detour at the helm of superhero blockbuster Iron Man 3, Shane Black is still best known for his work as the scribe behind a series of buddy cop crime comedies. The Nice Guys marks his return to that genre and there’s no doubt that it fits him like a glove. Set in sun-baked 70s LA, the story is a heightened, hilarious journey through the lives of two hapless detectives investigating a missing person case that soon spirals way out of their control.
Thuggish enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is hired to beat up perpetually drunk private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling). When violent criminals attempt to track Jackson’s client, Amelia (Margaret Qualley), he joins forces with Holland to try to get to her before the thugs do. This brings the duo into a wide-ranging conspiracy about automobiles and pornography, which Amelia seems to be mixed up in, much to the disgust of her mother Judith (Kim Basinger), who is a government official. Jackson and Holland continue to work together to get to the bottom of what is happening and uncover the truth.
The Nice Guys works because it never takes itself seriously. It’s similar in setting and subject matter to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s bizarre psychedelic trip Inherent Vice, but has clarity and comedy where that otherwise enjoyable film tended to wallow in its slacker lethargy. Black’s script fires out one-liners with gleeful abandon, ably delivered by the two lead performers. It may not be quite as sharp as Black’s crime thriller critique Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but it’s every bit as funny.
Ryan Gosling is, without doubt, the secret weapon of The Nice Guys. He has done comedy before, in the excellent Crazy, Stupid Love, but he has never been as funny as he is here. Crowe gets many of the best lines in the script, but Gosling’s physical work is top notch. Whether he’s stumbling his way through drunken deductions or struggling to threaten someone with his trousers around his ankles in a bathroom cubicle. A far cry from the brooding seriousness of his work in the intense drama Drive, this shows just how versatile Gosling is as a performer. Crowe’s considerably less graceful physicality proves to be an ideal counterpoint to this, ensuring that the perfect buddy comedy alchemy is in place.
Outside of the central duo, there’s plenty of character in the supporting cast. Angourie Rice excels in her first major movie appearance, stealing many of the scenes from the two seasoned performers taking on the lead roles. Kim Basinger, meanwhile, brings a real class to her performance, which helps as the plot twists and turns towards an utterly chaotic conclusion. It’s once this plot kicks into gear that The Nice Guys starts to slip in the face of its light-hearted, deliberately scattershot approach to storytelling.
The Nice Guys is not a film that stands up to a great deal of scrutiny and it’s an eminently forgettable piece of work. It is, however, tremendous fun in the moment and packs some solid dialogue alongside an entertaining, if lightweight, central storyline. Shane Black is back and he’s every bit as good as he was when Lethal Weapon arrived in cinemas nearly 30 years ago.
Pop or Poop?
The buddy cop genre is tough to get right after decades of classic movies turned it into a minefield of clichés and conventions. Shane Black, however, brings a real freshness to it with The Nice Guys. It’s a throwaway tale and one that takes a few twists too many, but Gosling and Crowe bring genuine comedic physicality that is matches only by the easy-going wit of Black’s script.
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